Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, observed in March, aims to focus attention on one of the deadliest cancers in the world. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that Colorectal Cancer accounts for well over three-quarters of a million deaths worldwide. Patients, doctors, survivors, caregivers and all those touched in some way by Colorectal Cancer use this period to promote awareness of this disease, reiterate the life-saving benefits of early screening and detection and celebrate gains made in combating this disease that shows no discrimination along racial or ethnic lines but which mostly attacks persons over the age of 50.
What is Colorectal Cancer?
Colorectal Cancer first develops in the colon or rectum. The colon and rectum are part of the large intestine. The colon, after absorbing water and nutrients from the food, acts as a ‘storehouse’ for waste matter. This waste matter eventually moves on to the rectum and is later expelled from the body.
Colorectal Cancer Symptoms
Colorectal Cancer, also known as Bowel Cancer, Colon Cancer or even Rectal Cancer, may make itself known through an increased need to visit the toilet, diarrhoea and constipation. Blood in the stool, abdominal pain and persistent bloating are also signs of the possible presence of this cancer. A feeling of the bowel not completely emptying even after a toilet visit is another warning sign. Fatigue without due cause should always prompt one to consult a health professional. It is a definite indication of imbalance in the body and it is also a symptom associated with Colorectal Cancer. A lump in the tummy or in the back passage (through a doctor’s examination) may indicate the presence of Bowel Cancer. Vomiting, too, is a classic symptom of this cancer and a doctor’s visit may help allay your fears or embark immediately on a course of treatment. Iron deficiency in men, and in women after menopause, round up the symptoms most commonly associated with Colorectal Cancer.
Colorectal Cancer begins as polyps forming on the inner walls of the colon and rectum. Some of these polyps become cancerous over time. Identifying and removing polyps can prevent Colorectal Cancer. The most widely method to achieve this is through Colonoscopy. By the use of a thin flexible tube (called a colonoscope) your doctor is able to look inside the colon and locate the polyps, if any. The colonoscope will also relay any other unusual activity in the colon such as inflammation, bleeding, ulcers and tumours. It is a simple enough procedure whose positive health benefits cannot be overstated. Colonoscopies save lives.
Colorectal Cancer Diagnosis
Throughout the Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month emphasis on prevention is expected to be the key message. People over 50 will especially be encouraged to go for early screenings. Apart from Colonoscopies, other tests to identify Colorectal Cancer in its formative stages may include Sigmoidoscopes and Faecal Occult Blood Tests. Doctors are best placed to advise on the method best suited for individual clients.
Dietary education will be a key part of the celebrations and participants are expected to go away with useful information on the dos and don’ts at table and avoid those that make one predisposed to Bowel Cancer. The need to avoid high animal protein diets, the importance of eschewing excessive ingestion of saturated fats and the necessity to regulate high calorie diets intakes are topics that will come up in the various forums where Colorectal Cancer will be on the spotlight. Participants are also expected to be educated on the absolute necessity to significantly increase their fibre intake while at the same time avoiding the dangers of overeating as obesity has shown itself to provide a particularly conducive environment for Colorectal Cancer. The need to be conservative in alcohol consumption is also a possible check in the inception and growth of this cancer.
Beyond diet, education on possible contributing factors to the development of Colorectal Cancer will also focus on smoking as a deadly risk factor. Inactivity, Irritable Bowel Disease, a family history of Bowel Cancer and the presence of polyps in the colon or rectum are also important topics that should be exhaustively dealt with. Women who have had breast, ovary or uterus cancers tend to have a higher risk of having Colorectal Cancer and they are encouraged to attend regular screenings to eliminate the possibility of this disease creeping up on them.