The truth about colon cancer
(The Philippine Star) Updated June 22, 2010 12:00 AM
Dr. Ramon Estrada, chief of Colorectal Surgery at the MakatiMed
MANILA, Philippines - The worst thing about some types of cancers is that they are not easily detected during their earlier stages — one of these is colon cancer. MakatiMed, the country’s leading health institution, gives you a primer on the disease and what you can do to detect and prevent it.
Silent But Deadly
Colon cancer is also known as the cancer of the large intestine, which is found in the lower area of your digestive system. The condition normally begins with the growth and development of small, benign clumps of cells called adenomatous polyps, which become cancerous over time. These polyps, however, will produce little to no symptoms, making it difficult to diagnose during its initial stages.
Reviewing your family history and current lifestyle may help you determine if you are at risk of developing the condition. If your family has a history of familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), you have an increased chance of getting colon cancer even before the age of 40. Another genetic condition called Hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), or Lynch syndrome, puts you at risk of developing colon cancer before the age of 50. The good news is that both conditions can be detected through genetic testing early surveillance.
Other risk factors include older age (most people stricken with color cancer are older than 50), a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, smoking, and alcohol. If you can relate to any of these risk factors, you should know that these increase your chances of developing the disease.
Signs & Symptoms
It is important to know what to watch out for, especially if your lifestyle puts you at high risk of being afflicted with the condition. Some of the signs and symptoms of colon cancer are a change in bowel habits (e.g. experiencing diarrhea, constipation or a change in the consistency of your stool for more than two weeks), rectal bleeding, and persistent abdominal discomfort (including pain, cramps, and gas).
Unexplained weight loss, fatigue, weakness, and the feeling that your bowel isn’t completely emptying are also possible signs of colon cancer.
Prevention & Treatment
Periodic screening tests for colon cancer are recommended for people over 50 — earlier if your family history puts you at a higher risk of developing the disease. However, if you are experiencing several of the symptoms already, see your doctor right away. The earlier the cancer is detected, the more curable it is. Screening tests may involve stool examinations, blood tests, colonoscopies, X-rays, and CT scans.
Treatment for colon cancer highly depends on its diagnosed stage. If your cancer is small and localized, your doctor may be able to remove it through a colonoscopy. For invasive colon cancer, a colectomy (removing the part of the colon that has the cancer) may be recommended. However, if it is already in an advanced stage, chemotherapy and radiation may be considered in addition to surgery.
MakatiMed has a well-developed gastrointestinal (digestive) cancer program offering treatment for various cancers including colon cancer, stomach cancer, bowel cancer, pancreatic cancer, esophageal cancer, rectal cancer, and liver cancer.
Dr. Ramon Estrada, chief of Colorectal Surgery at the MakatiMed, says: “Being aware of the signs and symptoms of colon cancer may just be what will save you from the illness. If you discover that your lifestyle puts you at risk of developing the disease, then it’s time to make gradual changes in the way you live. While it’s good to be informed, the other part of being responsible for your health is actually doing something about it.”
For more information, call MakatiMed’s 24/7 on-call hotline at 8888-999 or visit the website at http://www.makatimed.net.ph