Bowel cancer: One of the earliest signs of colorectal (bowel) cancer includes a recent change in

Bowel cancer: One of the earliest signs of colorectal (bowel) cancer includes a recent change in

Reports suggest that MasterChef Australia judge Jock Zonfrillo was secretly battling bowel cancer. The 46-year-old chef was found dead earlier this week and left everybody in a state of shock. As per WHO, Asia has the highest burden of colorectal cancer. Indian Journal of Cancer released a report that stated there is a consistent rise in the incidence of colon cancer across all Indian cancer registries, ranging from 20% to 124% per year. So let us understand the risk of colon cancer, colorectal cancer, bowel cancer.
A lot of times bowel cancer and colorectal cancer are terms used interchangeably. Dr. Vivek Mangla, Director – Gastrointestinal and Hepatopancreatobiliary (GI & HPB) Surgical Oncology, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Patparganj explains, “Bowel cancer and colorectal cancer may or may not mean the same. When we talk of the bowel it essentially means our intestines which are divided into small and large intestines. Cancers affecting the large intestine are described as colorectal cancers. When we talk about bowel and colorectal cancer, we need to understand that the bowel largely means the intestine, which can be either small or large. Cancers affecting the large intestine far outnumber the cancers affecting the small intestine, and the cancers affecting the large intestine are called colorectal cancer.”

Are colorectal and bowel cancer cases on the rise?

Dr. Amanjeet Singh, Director & Head of Colorectal Surgery, GI Surgery, GI Oncology and Bariatric Surgery, Institute of Digestive and Hepatobiliary Sciences, Medanta, Gurugram shares that with the change in lifestyle and diet, the incidence of colorectal cancer is increasing like an epidemic especially in developing countries like India.
Dr Vivek further adds, “Another reason that we are seeing a higher incidence now is that the disease has now been diagnosed more and more often and quite often heartily in the early stages of the disease, thereby making the disease much more treatable and much more curable.

What are the early signs of colorectal cancer?

Early signs of colorectal cancer include a recent change in bowel habits, somebody having a long standing constipation, now developing diarrhoea or somebody with a history of diarrhoea now developing constipation, bleeding in stools, unexplained weight loss, and unexplained anaemia, warns Dr Amanjeet.
Apart from the various genetic and family predisposition, there are many dietary factors like use of red meat, processed meat, starch, refined sugar, high fat dairy products, refined grains etc. which predispose to the development of colorectal cancer. There are many lifestyle factors like excessive use of alcohol, smoking, obesity, especially in men have also been shown linked to the development of colorectal cancers.

Family history puts you at risk

As is already known, a family history of cancer predisposes a person to the cancer, same is the case with colorectal cancer. However, there are things that people can do to prevent it. Dr Vivek shares, “First and most importantly, they can adopt a healthier lifestyle which can reduce their risk. Second and even more importantly, these people should have a regular colonoscopy. Colonoscopy is a test in which an endoscope is passed into the large intestine to see the large intestine from the inside. This test is able to pick up a polyp which is a small swelling in the large intestine that can be very easily picked up at colonoscopy, and these polyps are known to become cancerous over a period of 1 to 10 years, depending on the family history and other risk factors in the patient.”
So, somebody with a family history, he/she cannot change the genetic factors but they can start screening for these cancers at a young age. Good thing about colorectal cancers is that the prognosis is very good if detected early and various effective treatment options are available, says Dr Amanjeet.
The initial lab test includes a blood test like haemoglobin level, serum tumour marker like serum CEA level or the stool test like faecal for occult blood to see for any blood in the stools. Additionally advanced tests include colonoscopy which is a kind of a telescope which is inserted through the stool passage under sedation and we can see the whole of the colon for any polyp or cancer.

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