Colorectal cancer is a type of cancer that affects the colon or rectum, and it is one of the most common cancers in India. According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), there were an estimated 45,000 new cases of colorectal cancer in India in 2020, with a mortality rate of 34,000. Early detection and treatment are critical for improving the chances of survival.
Why Screening is Important for Colorectal Cancer
Screening is important for colorectal cancer because it can detect cancer in its early stages when it is most treatable. The American Cancer Society recommends that individuals at average risk of colorectal cancer begin screening at age 45, while those at higher risk may need to start earlier or be screened more frequently. Screening can detect polyps, which are small growths that can develop into cancer over time. If detected early, polyps can be removed before they turn cancerous. Screening can also detect colorectal cancer in its early stages when it is more likely to be curable.
Colorectal cancer is often asymptomatic in its early stages, which is why routine screening is so important. However, when symptoms do occur, they are most commonly seen in stages 0 through 2 and may include:
- Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool
- Abdominal pain or cramping
- Constipation or diarrhoea
- Changes in bowel habits, such as narrower stools or changes in stool colour
- Excessive gas or bloating
It’s important to note that these symptoms can also be caused by other conditions, but it’s always best to get them checked out by a medical professional. Routine screening is recommended for everyone over the age of 40, or earlier if there is a family history of colorectal cancer or other risk factors.
Diagnosis of Colorectal Cancer
To make a definitive diagnosis of colorectal cancer, the doctor may order a series of tests as part of the diagnosis process. These tests may include:
- Blood tests: Blood tests such as complete blood count, tumour markers, and enzymes may be done to check for signs of cancer in the body.
- Imaging tests: Various imaging tests like X-rays, CT scans, MRI scans, PET scans, ultrasounds, and angiography can help detect any abnormalities or signs of cancer in the colon or rectum.
- Biopsy: A tissue sample is taken from the suspected area of cancer and examined under a microscope to confirm the diagnosis of cancer.
- Diagnostic colonoscopy: This procedure involves a doctor using a thin, flexible tube with a camera on the end to examine the inside of the colon and rectum for any abnormalities or signs of cancer. This is usually done after symptoms present or if a screening test, such as a faecal occult blood test, is positive.
- Proctoscopy: This procedure involves using a short, rigid tube with a camera on the end to examine the rectum for any abnormalities or signs of cancer
Treatment for Colorectal Cancer
Colorectal cancer is a serious condition that requires prompt and effective treatment. The stage of the cancer determines its severity and guides the treatment options available. Here are some of the commonly used treatment methods:
Surgery: This procedure involves removing the abnormal cells and a small section of healthy tissue around the cancerous area. Surgery is often the first line of treatment for colorectal cancer and may be used alone or in combination with other therapies.
Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy drugs are used to destroy cancer cells and are typically administered intravenously or orally. Different drugs are used depending on the type of cancer and are given in specific dosages and schedules. This treatment may be recommended for advanced colorectal cancers where cancer cells have spread to other organs or lymph nodes.
Radiation: Radiation therapy uses high-energy x-rays to destroy cancer cells. It is usually performed by a radiation oncologist who specializes in this type of therapy. Radiation therapy may be used alone or in combination with other treatments.
Immunotherapy: This is a newer type of treatment that aims to boost the body’s immune response to cancer cells. There are two types of immunotherapy:
- Active immunotherapy: This treatment boosts the patient’s immune system to help it fight cancer more effectively.
- Passive immunotherapy: Man-made antibodies are used to target specific components on the colorectal cancer cells and stop them from evading the body’s immune system.
After Surgery Treatment and Support
After colorectal surgery, patients may need additional treatment, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, to ensure that all cancerous cells have been eliminated. Sri Ramakrishna Specialty Hospital provides comprehensive aftercare to ensure that patients recover fully and can resume their normal activities as soon as possible.