Truth about Colorectal Cancer – 2

The possible symptoms of colorectal cancer are:

  • Blood in stool.

  • (Chronic) Diarrhea – passage of watery stool

  • Constipation.

  • A feeling that the bowel does not empty properly after a bowel motion.

  • Abdominal pains

  • Bloated abdomen

  • A feeling of fullness in the abdomen.

  • Unintentional weight loss

  • Easy fatigability

As most of the above symptoms can be due to other conditions, it is important that a patient sees a doctor for a definitive diagnosis.

The treatment of this disease is largely dependent on the stage it is discovered in a patient. It usually consists of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The outcome of the treatment is usually better in the earlier stages of the disease.

It is pertinent to know that CRC is also preventable as it customarily develops from pre-cancerous growths in the bowel wall known as polyps.
Polyps are usually asymptomatic and can be discovered and removed safely during colonoscopy. There is no governmental policy in Nigeria that mandates screening for colon cancer so it is entirely an individual initiative.
Screening colonoscopy is undertaken for individuals in western countries where there is a ten times higher incidence of colon cancer at the age of 50 years. Therein lies the problem as colon cancer is now increasingly being seen in Nigeria in patients below the age of 50 years.
Consequently, the only method in Nigeria colon cancer can be detected early is by being one’s own advocate, ensuring if an individual develops any of the above symptoms, he or she consults a doctor and a definitive diagnosis is established.

The common symptoms of colon cancer in Nigeria are persistent abdominal pain, blood in stool, change in bowel habit and chronic diarrhea.

The commonsense implications of the foregoing are:

  • Never accept a diagnosis of persistent or recurrent abdominal pain as Peptic Ulcer Disease (PUD) without a proper investigation (endoscopy or barium meal),

  • Abdominal pain responding positively to anti-ulcer medications does not make it peptic ulcer disease,

  • Any instance of blood in stool must be evaluated by a combination of digital rectal examination by a doctor and colonoscopy (limited or full).

  • Furthermore, chronic diarrhoea (passing watery stools for more than one month) and change in bowel habit must be evaluated expeditiously by colonoscopy or barium enema.

In conclusion establishing an early diagnosis of colorectal lies with the individual, undergoing colonoscopy in their forties and ensuring their doctor or family physician orders a colonoscopy or barium enema if they have any of the above symptoms.

In addition people should live a healthy lifestyle: moderate consumption of red meat, consuming fruits and vegetables and fiber rich diets, eschewing smoking and alcohol, exercise, and maintaining a normal weight.

Truth about Colorectal Cancer – 2

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