Colorectal Cancer

Can Colorectal Cancer be Prevented?

Colorectal cancer develops in the colon or rectum. It is also known as colon cancer or rectum cancer, but mostly grouped together and known as colorectal cancer owing to several common features both the colon and rectum cancers share. It usually develops as a polyp – an abnormal growth in the lining of the rectum or colon, which may or may not grow as cancer. All polyps may not grow as cancer. Only some types of polyps can grow into cancer after several years.

Types of Polyps

Inflammatory or hyperplastic polyps are common, but they are non-cancerous, but adenomas or adenomatous polyps can grow into cancer. Hence, they can be cancerous. Adenomas is a pre-cancerous condition. Majority of the colorectal cancers are adenocarcinomas. And the less common types of colorectal cancers include carcinoid tumours, gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GISTs), lymphomas, and sarcomas.

What conditions can make a polyp more likely to develop into a colorectal cancer?

The following factors can make a polyp more likely to develop into a colorectal cancer:

  • If the size of the polyp is larger than 1 cm
  • If two or more than two polyps are present
  • If abnormal cells are present within the polyp (dysplasia)

Are there any preventable causes of colorectal cancer?

There are several lifestyle-related risk factors linked to colorectal cancer, which are some of the strongest known risk factors for colorectal cancer.

  • Being overweight or obese increases the risk in both men and women
  • Being physically inactive can increase the risk
  • Excessive consumption of red meat and processed meat increase the risk
  • Heating meat at high temperature can increase the risk
  • Smoking is linked to increase in the risk of colorectal cancer
  • Heavy alcohol consumption

What are the risk factors of colorectal cancer that you cannot change?

Age: The risk of colorectal cancer increases as you age. It is common both in men and women after age 50.

Personal history of adenomatous polyps: If you have had adenomatous polyps, which were large with dysplasia, then your risk increases.

History of colorectal cancer: The chances of getting colorectal cancer after treatment are more likely as the cancer may develop in other parts of colon and rectum.

IBD (Inflammatory Bowel disease): If you have IBD (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis), your risk may increase.

Family history of colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps: 1 in 3 individuals witha strong family history of colorectal cancer may be at a risk of developing colorectal cancer.

Type 2 diabetes: Individuals with type 2 diabetes are at increased risk of colorectal cancer.

Genetic disorders: less than 5% of the people with colorectal cancer have genetic cause. The common inherited disorders linked with colorectal cancer include familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP); hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) or lynch syndrome and other rare syndromes, such as – Peutz-Jeghers syndrome (PJS) and MYH-associated polyposis (MAP).

Treatment for Colorectal Cancer

Surgical resection is the common treatment for colorectal cancer. The other surgical options include laparoscopic surgery and radiofrequency ablation (radio-frequency waves are used to heat the tumour). Stereotactic Radiation therapy, brachytherapy and intraoperative radiation therapy – in which a single dose of radiation is given during surgery, are the radiation therapies for treating colorectal cancer. Sometimes, chemotherapy may be given along with radiation therapy prior to surgery and after surgery as well.  Chemotherapy along with targeted therapy is the first line treatment for advanced colorectal cancer.

Early detection is the key to prevention of colorectal cancer

In the polyp stage or during the early stage of cancer, the patient may not experience any symptoms. Even if the symptoms appear, they will most likely to vary depending on the size and location. Therefore, screening or colonoscopy is necessary to detect polyps early. Screening is recommended for individuals over age 50; and, for individuals with a family history, early and frequent screening is recommended. With early detection, surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy can be effective treatment to cure colorectal cancer. Even the rarest of rare type of colorectal cancer can be detected by genetic testing.

If you are worried about colorectal cancer, talk to your oncologist at the earliest.

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