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Colonoscopy Can Stop Colorectal Cancer Before It Starts

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Colorectal cancer cases have been steadily on the rise in recent years, but the mortality rate has dropped significantly due to the advancements in technologies for screening and treatment. The lifetime risk is roughly 1 in 25 for both men and women. However, this risk can vary based on individual factors. Colorectal cancer typically develops from polyps in the large intestine. While the exact cause remains unclear, risk factors can be broadly categorized into two groups:

Individual Risk Factors:

  • Age: In the past, over 90% of colorectal cancer patients were over 50 years old, with an average age of 60-65. However, in the last decade, the incidence of colorectal cancer in patients under 50 has been increasing, with the youngest reported patient being 18 years old.
  • Family history and genetic predisposition: Around 20% of individuals with colorectal cancer have a family history of the disease.
  • History of polyps: Studies have shown that certain types of polyps can progress to colorectal cancer. Early detection and removal of polyps can reduce the risk of developing the disease.

Environmental Risk Factors:

  • Overweight and lack of exercise: Research has linked body weight to cancer risk. Exercise, on the other hand, can increase metabolism, promote bowel movement, and reduce long-term risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Diet: Certain foods may contain carcinogens, especially processed meats like sausages, bacon, fermented pork, meatballs, and grilled red meat.
  • Smoking: 12% of colorectal cancer deaths are attributed to smoking.
  • Alcohol: Alcohol consumption, especially when combined with smoking, further increases cancer risk.

Early Symptoms and Screening:

In the early stages, colorectal cancer may not cause noticeable symptoms. However, as the disease progresses and polyps grow larger, symptoms may include:

  • Blood or mucus in stool
  • Passing smaller stools
  • Alternating constipation and diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Bloating
  • A palpable abdominal mass

Early screening with colonoscopy at age 45-50 can detect the disease, enabling timely treatment or even prevention if polyps are found before they turn cancerous.

Treatment

Treatment for colorectal cancer depends on the severity, stage, location, and size of the tumor, as well as the patient’s age, overall health, and underlying diseases. There are 4 primary treatment approaches:

  • Surgery: Removing the diseased portion of the intestine and lymph nodes. In some cases, if the tumor is located near the anus in the lower rectum, a colostomy may be necessary.
  • Radiation therapy: Used in conjunction with surgery, either before or after, depending on the indications and the doctor’s assessment. Commonly used for distal colon and rectal cancers.
  • Chemotherapy: May be administered before or after surgery, with or without radiation therapy, as determined by the doctor based on medical indications. Not always necessary for early-stage patients.
  • Targeted therapy: Used in combination with chemotherapy. The specific type of drug depends on gene testing of the tumor tissue to assess drug response (precision medicine).

The best way to prevent colorectal cancer is to avoid environmental risk factors. For those with a family history, regular colonoscopy screening can detect polyps or tumors in the colon that may develop into cancer in the future.

For more information, please contact

Life Cancer Center, Vejthani Hospital.
Tel. 02-734-0000 Ext. 2720
English Hotline: (+66)8-522 38888

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