Know the risk factors of colorectal cancer

Malignancy in any part of the colon or rectum (large intestine) is termed as colorectal cancer (CRC).

Most often, it spreads to the liver and sometimes to the lungs, bones, or other organs. When this happens, it is called Metastatic Colorectal Cancer (mCRC).

Globally, CRC is the 3rd most common cancer in men and 2nd most in women. In India, it is among the top 10 cancers: around 49,500 deaths occur due to colorectal cancer.

It is more common in developed nations, but its prevalence has been increasing in developing nations, too. The symptoms are blood and mucus in stools, altered bowel habits, and sudden weight loss.

Those older than 50 years or having a family history of CRC are at a greater risk. Other risk factors include diseases such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, smoking, and consumption of excess red meat or alcohol.

You can prevent CRC by being physically active, avoiding smoking, maintaining a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and limiting intake of fast food and alcohol.

The tests for detecting CRC are stool for occult blood, digital rectal examination, and colonoscopy.

The treatment options for CRC include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy. Factors that determine the outcome of treatment are age, stage, co-morbidities, left vs right colon, and certain genetic changes (like RAS mutation).

The good news is that with biomarker testing and personalized treatments, the survival rates of metastatic CRC have gone up.

This article has been authored by Dr. Ajay Bapna, Senior Consultant & HOD, Department of Medical Oncology, Bhagwan Mahaveer Cancer Hospital & Research Center, Jaipur.

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