Colorectal cancer is a lifestyle disease that can be prevented!

Cancers of large intestine or colorectal cancers is the 3rd most common cancer in Indian men and women. Its incidence is increasing steadily across the globe including our country. More concerning is its rising incidence in young Indian population ( < 40 years). Keeping this in consideration ,March is celebrated as colorectal cancer awareness month.

So let's first try to know the common symptoms:

Persistent changes in bowel habits like diarrhea, constipation, changes in consistency of stool, changes in frequency of use of the loo, and blood in your stool. Apart from these common signs, other symptoms include unexplained weight loss, fatigue, a feeling of incomplete evacuation of the bowel, persistent abdominal discomfort like cramps, gas, or pain. It is important to note that the above-mentioned symptoms may not necessarily be caused by cancer and may be due to other less serious conditions, but one should take them more seriously, especially in the case of elders or if the symptoms continue to persist despite simple treatments.

What are the new advances in colorectal cancer treatment?

There have been many advancements in the treatment of colorectal cancer. In fact, certain patients (5–10%), even in stage 4 (with lung and liver-limited spread), can have good long-term outcomes with multimodality treatment. Certain patients with limited peritoneal metastases can also avail themselves of the benefits of cytoreductive surgery and HIPEC.

For patients with rectal cancer, having a permanent stoma (toilet) bag is always a major concern, but with newer techniques, many such patients today can be saved from it, and even those who ultimately require one can have an almost normal life with proper training and some lifestyle adjustments.

Minimal invasive (keyhole) surgery has been a big boon for many benign diseases and is now fast replacing conventional (open) surgery, even in the field of colorectal cancer, where many elderly patients with associated co-morbidities can have safe surgeries with fast and painless recovery.

How do you prevent colorectal cancers?

It is a lifestyle disease, with only 10–15% of cases related to familial genes( syndromes). So adapting a healthy lifestyle in the form of regular exercise, a diet rich in fiber, avoiding junk foods, avoiding alcohol and smoking, and weight management can go a long way in preventing it.

Regular screening, especially for high-risk individuals, should be considered.

So let's all join hands and support the blue this month, not only for Holi and our cricket team, but this time for our own health and to educate one another.

Dr. Nitin Singhal (Consultant Surgical Oncologist, Laparoscopic/Robotic Surgeon, and HIPEC Specialist)

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