Michelle Posts / Mackintosh End
Most of the time, when people hear about cancer, they immediately think of cervical, breast or prostate cancer.
They tend to forget that there are various other cancers like colon cancer that are being given the cold shoulder. It’s important to understand that cancer can develop anywhere in the body, including the colon and rectum (colorectal), which make up the large intestine.
Colon cancer can also be called colon cancer or rectal cancer depending on where it starts, but they are often grouped because they share the same characteristics.
In Zimbabwe, many people are diagnosed with colon cancer, which accounts for about 5% of all cancer deaths, ranking sixth after Kaposi’s sarcoma, cervical, prostate, breast and liver cancers. Colon cancer often causes minimal or no symptoms, underscoring the need for screening and cancer education programs. In case we have forgotten, some famous people like Morgan Tsvangirai, the famous comedian Gringo (Lazarus Boora) and the American actor of the Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) all succumbed to the disease. Colon cancer has no regard for the individual’s socioeconomic status if the elite believe the disease only affects the poor. In fact, nothing justifies negligence, hence the need to educate the public about this disease.
Now let’s take a closer look and answer some common questions people might have about this disease.
What are the risk factors for colon cancer?
Cancer has no known cause, but studies around the world have found multiple causes that increase the likelihood of developing the disease. About 75% of colon cancer cases occur in patients without specific risk factors. However, risks associated with developing colon cancer are:
- Have a family member or relative (brother, sister, mother, or father) with a history of colon cancer or other colon cancer syndrome;
- A personal history of another type of cancer such as in the womb or breast;
- Age, with age, the risk of colon cancer increases due to exposure to mutagens over the course of life;
- Lifestyle behavior, including alcohol consumption, poor diet, sedentary lifestyle and smoking.
How do I know I have colon cancer?
The clinical appearance of colon cancer is mainly determined by the location of the tumor and its symptoms are usually non-specific. Colon cancer symptoms are often diagnosed late, and some of the symptoms include:
- Bleeding from the rectum
- Blood in your stool or in the toilet after a bowel movement
- Dark or black stool
- A change in bowel habits or the shape of the chair (for example, narrower than usual)
- Cramps or discomfort in the lower abdomen
- Urge to stool when the bowel is empty
- Constipation or diarrhea that lasts for a long time
The persistence of these symptoms should be investigated.
Can Colon Cancer Be Screened?
Once the above symptoms persist, it is necessary to see a doctor before punishing the stomach with all sorts of self-made preparations. Often times, the public seeks medical help when they have exhausted all possible alternatives and by that time the disease is terminally advanced. Early screening is therefore necessary for early treatment of the disease.
Fortunately, if detected as precancerous cells, most colon cancer cases are preventable and this can reduce the incidence and death rate of the disease. In general, the screening process consists of two steps:
Test 1: This test involves the use of a colonoscopy to look for any growths called polyps throughout your colon (large intestine) and rectum. The doctor can remove these premalignant polyps and prevent colon cancer from occurring.
l Test 2: If previous tests, such as B. Multi-target stool DNA, are positive, a follow-up colonoscopy is required as a second test to confirm the presence of the disease for early treatment.
Adults between the ages of 45 and 75 should be screened. Frequent and continuous screening should be personalized especially over the age of 75. Generally, in adults with an average risk, a colonoscopy every 10 years from the age of 45 is recommended as a screening test or alternatively an annual stool test. Screening is crucial as it helps identify the presence of polyps before they become cancerous and save lives. That means the power of prevention!
What are the treatment options for colon cancer?
As with any other cancer, the likelihood of recovery depends on the extent to which it has spread at the time of diagnosis, the number of regional lymph nodes involved, and the presence or absence of distant metastases.
The disease is usually treated with surgery, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and rarely radiation therapy. Surgery is often done first to remove most of the disease, after which chemotherapy can be given. Chemotherapy is the main treatment for many people with colon cancer, and several studies are constantly being conducted to try to make it more effective and safer. Targeted therapy drugs can also be used, which work by affecting certain parts of cancer cells that differentiate them from normal cells.
The good news is that there is a five-year survival rate of 90% for cancers that are detected at an early stage. Unfortunately, patients with advanced cancer have poor outcomes, although young patients tend to be fitter and can tolerate more aggressive oncological or surgical treatments. This confirms the need for screening so that it can be detected early.
What do I have to do to reduce the risk of colon cancer?
It is estimated that 75% of colon cancer cases are due to diet and lifestyle factors that can be changed. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and eating a healthy diet can help reduce your risk of developing the disease. The main concern is that delaying diagnosis has a huge impact on survival hence the need for a cancer conscious nation.
As health workers specializing in dealing with cancer patients, it is of the utmost importance that cancer awareness and education are increased to facilitate rapid presentation, diagnosis and treatment to the public. It is our mission and one of our main goals to increase the cancer literacy of the population. We therefore call for unity in this fight and call on companies to support our campaigns because we believe that together we can defeat cancer.
Do you have a coronavirus history? You can send us an email at: email@example.com