The alteration of environmental conditions, lifestyle and age is associated with an increased risk of gastrointestinal tract maladies and also leads to colorectal cancer, which is the third most common cause of death among Thai people. In the US colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of death and in Europe it is the second most common cause of cancer deaths.
It is recommended that colorectal screening begins at age 50 and that those who have risk factors consult with a gastroenterologist or proctologist in order to receive an annual colonoscopy to detect colon cancer and or polyps that can be treated early.
Sings and symptoms
Colorectal cancer can be present for several years before symptoms develop. If the following symptoms appear, it is likely the cancer has grown to large size. The most common symptoms include :
- Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool
- A change in your bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation or bloody stool with mucous
- Persistent abdominal pain or discomfort
- Unexplained anemia
- Unexplained weight loss
What are the risk factors for colorectal cancer?
- A family history of colorectal cancer or familial adenomatous polyposis
- A personal history of colorectal polyps such as the adenomatous polyp
- A personal history of inflammatory bowel disease
Colorectal cancer screening
If you suspect that you have colorectal cancer, you should consult a physician in order to investigate any abnormalities. There are several tests used to screen for colorectal cancer :
- Fecal occult blood test
- a blood test for CEA (carcinoembyonic antigen)
- Barium enema
- Virtual colonoscopy
Colonoscopy is considered the most comprehensive and accurate investigation. In addition, the procedure is used to examine the lining or the colon and can also facilitate the removal of detected polyps at the same time.
Stages of colorectal cancer are classified as follows :
- Stage 1 and 2: cancer has grown through several layers of the colon but has not spread outside the colon itself.
- Stage 3: cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.
- Stage 4: cancer has spread to distant organs such as the liver, lungs, and other organs in the body.
Treatments for colorectal cancer
- Colon surgery: This surgery, performed by a colorectal surgeon, removes the cancer as well as a length of normal colon on either side of the cancer. It is the most effective treatment for colorectal cancer and provides the highest five year survival rate.
- Chemotherapy: The use of chemotherapy after surgery can reduce the recurrence of cancer, especially for patients with stage 3 colorectal cancer.
- Radiation Therapy: Radiation may be used before surgery to shrink the size of the cancer and is also useful for cancer in locally advanced stages.
Prevention and risk reduction of colorectal cancer
Even though the exact causes of colorectal cancer are currently not known, the risk of colorectal cancer can be reduced by consuming a high fiber diet and a lot of fruits and vegetables. This will help promote more frequent bowel movements and also shorten the time food stays in the colon. The longer the food stays inside the colon, the more toxins it will produce. the toxins increase the risk of cell mutation on the inner wall of the colon. Regular exercise also reduces the risk of colorectal cancer and helps weight loss as well.
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