Colon cancer and rectal cancer are collectively known as colorectal cancer. It’s important to have an awareness of this certain disease as it claims 30% of all cancer cases in the UAE. Older people, in particular, should be extra precautious as 80% of people in the UAE with colorectal cancer are above the age of 40.

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Just like any other type of cancer, colorectal cancer can be fatal without proper treatment and resources. Thanks to technological advancements in the medical industry in recent years; however, the amount of fatalities due to colorectal cancer is on a steady decline. 

What is Colorectal Cancer?

Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer occurs when cancer cells begin in the colon and rectum before spreading out of control and into the rest of the body. The growth that starts in the colon and rectum is called polyps.

Some types of polyps aren’t cancerous and can go away in the early stages. Once they develop, they can become cancerous. These polyps grow in the inner lining of the colon or rectum. The two main types of polyps are:

  • Adenomatous polyps – known as the pre-cancerous condition as they don’t start cancerous but can develop into cancer over time.
  • Hyperplastic polyps and inflammatory polyps – the more common type of polyps identified in people. These types of polyps are not pre-cancerous.

Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal Cancer

The symptoms of colorectal cancer will vary depending on the stages it has progressed in. However, the below symptoms can be suspected after a few days of contracting the disease. 

  • Changes in bowel habits
  • Frequent need to go to the toilet
  • Diarrhoea or constipation
  • A feeling that the bowel not emptying properly after a bowel movement
  • Blood in faeces or urine
  • Blood coming out from the rectum
  • Feeling full even when you eat little or no food
  • Random bloating
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • A lump in the abdomen or back
  • Back pain and abdominal pain
  • Fever or chills
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Iron deficiency

You should see a doctor at first notice if you notice one or multiple of the above symptoms. If the symptoms persist for four weeks or more, then it is highly advisable to seek medical attention immediately, Early intervention will allow doctors to treat it sooner and minimizing the risk or severity of colorectal cancer.

Causes of Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal Cancer

No one knows what the exact causes of colorectal cancer are. Many variables can lead to it, as is the case with all cancer types. Certain risk factors may increase the likelihood of colorectal cancer and these include:

  • Old age
  • A diet heavy in animal products and saturated fats
  • Diets with too much processed foods and artificial additives
  • Having other types of cancer such as uterine, breast, ovary cancer
  • A family history of colorectal cancer
  • Having irritable bowel 
  • Not exercising enough
  • Smoking
  • Not getting regular health check-ups with the doctor

Treatments

Colorectal Cancer

How, when or if a doctor treats you will depend on how bad the condition has become as well as personal health factors such as the size, location and the stage of cancer is in the current state of the patient. There are many types of treatments a doctor will advise you. The below treatments are not the only ones available. However, they are the most common. 

  • Surgery for colorectal cancer – This is the most common treatment a doctor will advise you to undertake as the affected rumours, and the nearby lymph nodes can be surgically removed in order to reduce the spread of cancer. The bowel is then sewn back together. In some cases, the rectum may need to be removed, and a colostomy bag is attached for drainage. This is only a temporary process but can possible be permanent if the bowel cannot be sewn together. If the cancer is diagnosed while in its early stages, it can successfully remove cancer entirely. Once in its late stages, it can only ease symptoms.
  • Chemotherapy – This treatment is common for most types of cancer. Chemotherapy involves using medicine or chemical that specifically targets and destroys cancer cells. It may also be used just before surgery to help shrink the size of the tumour. 
  • Radiation therapy – Using high energy radiation beams, this will help to destroy cancer cells and prevent them from multiplying. Radiation therapy is most effective if the cancer is diagnosed in its early stages. Radiation therapy is among the most used for rectal cancer. Along with chemotherapy, radiation therapy is also commonly used before surgery to shrink the size of the tumour. 

Prevention

Colorectal Cancer

There is no sure way that any cancer can be prevented as some of the risk factors are beyond our control. Although that may be the case, there are lifestyle adjustments we can make to lessen the chances of colorectal cancer from occurring in our health. 

  • Regular screenings and check-ups with doctors can help. This is highly advised for people who are over the age of 40 or have a family history of the disease.
  • Proper nutrition. Make sure you’re eating plenty of nutritious, fresh and whole foods. Avoid processed foods that are high in saturated fats.
  • Exercise moderately. Being physically active will help you manage a better weight as decreasing the chances of health complications associated with being overweight or obese. 

Head over to the Okadoc app to immediately book an appointment with your health practitioner.