As March is colorectal cancer awareness month, we can use this month to raise awareness about colorectal cancer and take actions towards preventing it. Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the world and there are increasing number of patients in Asia and South East Asia. In Thailand itself, the number is increasing both in women and men. Many colorectal cancers can be prevented through regular screening. Screening can find precancerous polyps, abnormal growths in the colon or rectum, so that they can be removed before they turn into cancer. Screening is crucial because when found early, colorectal cancer is highly treatable. Early stages of colorectal cancer usually presents no symptoms, as it tends to appear as the cancer progresses.
Researchers have found several risk factors that might increase a person’s chance of developing colorectal cancer.
Many people with colorectal cancer experience no symptoms in the early stages of the disease. Signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer include:
The type of treatment your doctor recommends will depend largely on the stage of your cancer.
In the past, the surgical treatment for colorectal cancer was open surgery. The surgical wound was around 6-12 inches or 15-30 centimeters depending on the size and location of the tumor. In the last two decades, laparoscopic surgery for colorectal cancer has undergone tremendous advancements. Only 4-5 small incisions (6-8 millimeters) are made to insert the surgical instruments. The largest surgical wound is around 4 centimeters. The size and number of surgical wounds depend on the size of the tumor.
The benefit of laparoscopic surgery is the smaller incision, less blood loss, less recovery time, and fewer complications. The patient will recover faster and get back to normal life quicker. However, the treatment option the doctor recommends will depend on the patient’s condition and cancer stage.
Many colorectal cancers can be prevented through regular screening. It is recommended that people at average risk for colorectal cancer be screened regularly by colonoscopy starting at age 50. The screening should be done every 5-10 years. It’s recommended that people with a family history of colorectal cancer, begin screening at the age of 45.
In addition, you can take steps to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer by making changes in your everyday life - eat a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, exercise regularly, and maintain a healthy weight.
Reference: Dr. Wutthi Sumetchotimaytha, a surgical oncologist, Wattanosoth hospital
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