Colorectal cancer is the second most common cancer in Malaysia after breast cancer. The incidence rate of this cancer is at 21.32 cases per 100000 population. It occurs when the cells that line the colon or rectum become abnormal and grow out of control. Symptoms often go unnoticed until a later stage when it becomes more serious.
What is Colorectal Cancer and how it develops?
Colorectal cancer, also known as bowel cancer or colon cancer, is a kind of tumour that develops from the cells lining the large intestine and/or the rectum. Uncontrolled division and proliferation will arise from the mutation of these cells, along with the inability of genes to reject mutant cells. When cancer has grown significantly over time, it is capable of eating into the surrounding organs and blood arteries and penetrating them, allowing the disease to spread.
Fortunately, most colorectal cancer begins as tiny precancerous (adenomatous or serrated) polyps. Typically, these polyps develop slowly and do not produce symptoms until they become big or malignant. This enables the identification and excision of pre-cancerous polyps prior to the formation of cancer. Just like any other cancer, your doctor may use staging as a guideline to determine how far along cancer has progressed. Your doctor must know the stage of your cancer so that they can devise the best treatment plan for you and provide you an estimate of your long-term prognosis.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBDs)
This cancer is more likely to occur if you have an inflammatory bowel illness (Ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease). IBDs’ persistent inflammation frequently results in dysplasia, or abnormal cell development. Although dysplastic cells are not yet cancerous, they have a higher risk of turning into one. This risk increases a person’s total illness carrier-span as well as the intensity of their inflammation.
Family History/ Inherited Conditions
People with two or more parents or siblings with cancer have greater risk of the disease, at least two to threefold. A positive family history of colorectal cancer, particularly in relatives under the age of 50 at the time of diagnosis, increases the risk due to inherited mutations or environmental factors. About 5 out of 100 person who gets colorectal cancer have genetic issues either in the form of familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch Syndrome). These two have been linked to the development of cancer at younger ages.
Other Risk factors
Local and global data shown higher incidence of colorectal cancer in males compared to female. Food intake such as high intake of red meat, sugar and fats would increase the risk. Unhealthy lifestyle such as alcohol consumption, smoking and the lack of physical activity also contributes a higher risk of colorectal cancer.
Usually, Colorectal cancer may not show any symptoms at all, especially in the early stages. If you have symptoms in the early stages, they may include:
-Blood on or in the stool
-Changes in stool colour
-Bleeding from rectum
-Abdominal cramps and pain
-Unexplained weight loss
Pay attention to the signs of colorectal cancer as they are similar to haemorrhoids. It is important to consult a doctor if any growth or bleeding persists. Anal cancer is curable, especially if detected and treated early. If it is mistaken for the wrong disease, you may not receive the treatment you need. Failure to do so can cause deteriorating health issues and might cause you your life. To detect your problems early, it is crucial to get colorectal screenings. If you see any of these signs or symptoms, you should consult your doctor right once. Early detection and treatment of colorectal cancer can save a patient’s life.
Colorectal Cancer Prevention
There is no foolproof strategy to avoid colorectal cancer. However, you may do things to reduce your risk, such as altering the risk factors over which you have control.
1. Colorectal Cancer Screening
The process of examining for cancer or pre-cancer in persons who have no signs of the disease is known as screening. It is one of the most effective methods for avoiding colorectal cancer when regular colorectal cancer screening is done. It generally takes 10 to 15 years for colorectal cancer to develop from the time the abnormal cells begin to grow into polyps. Most polyps may be detected and treated with frequent screening before they develop into cancer. Colorectal cancer screening is able to detect it early when it is tiny and simpler to cure.
2. Maintaining Healthy Lifestyle
Manage your diet by reducing red meats such as beef, pork, lamb and processed meat. Recent research on whole-grain intake suggests that when you increase your intake of whole grains, your risk of colorectal cancer tends to decrease. Limiting your consumption of red and processed meats and increasing your consumption of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains may help decrease your risk. Not drinking and quitting smoking may help to avoid colorectal cancer and many other types of cancer. Being more active lowers the risk of polyps too. Remember to stay at a healthy weight and increase physical activities!
3. Increase intake of vitamins, calcium and magnesium
Some studies have shown that vitamin D, which may be obtained by sun exposure, specific foods, or a vitamin pill, may reduce the incidence of colorectal cancer. According to research, low vitamin D levels have been linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancer and other cancer. In certain studies, low dietary calcium levels have been related to an increased risk of colon cancer. Further research suggests that increasing calcium consumption may reduce the incidence of colon cancer.
Colorectal cancer has no symptoms. When symptoms arise, it is already too late and most likely to be in an advanced stage. According to a survey, only 15% of patients with colorectal cancer have symptoms of stool bleeding in the first stage, and the remaining 85% are without any symptoms. Therefore, everyone is encouraged to go for screening for early prevention.