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Colorectal Cancer Awareness: Let’s Talk Screening

Colorectal Cancer Awareness: Let’s Talk Screening



Colorectal cancer occurs when the cells of the colon and rectum grow abnormally. The colon is the terminal portion of the digestive tract. Colorectal cancers usually occur from precancerous polyps (small growths occurring in the skin lining). These polyps change due to abnormalities in their cellular DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid), resulting in mutations and cancer growth. Symptoms of colon cancer occur only at an advanced stage. Therefore, regular colorectal cancer screenings are vital.




Colorectal cancer can occur at any age, though it usually affects older adults. It begins with the growth of a small polyp, which can become cancerous. Colorectal cancer occurs when the cell division and growth are affected, leading to uncontrolled cell growth causing cancer of the affected body part. As polyps are the initial stage of colorectal cancer, detection and removal at this stage can prevent the development of colorectal cancer. Therefore, colorectal cancer awareness via screening and other preventive measures is vital. This article will shed light on colon cancer risk factors, symptoms, treatment, and prevention.


Risk factors


As the cause of colorectal cancer is unknown, several risk factors can predispose you to colorectal cancer risk. Older age (>50 years), family history of colon cancer, a diet low in fibre and high in fat, inflammatory intestinal conditions, sedentary lifestyle, diabetes, obesity, smoking, and alcohol are some of the risk factors that can increase your chances of getting colorectal cancer.




Though symptoms do not occur in the early stages of colorectal cancer, being aware of the signs and symptoms can help in early identification of this cancer. Symptoms like changes in bowel habits (diarrhoea, constipation), blood in stools, abdominal discomfort, weakness, fatigue, and unexplained weight loss are some signs and symptoms indicative of colorectal cancer.




The treatment varies depending on the stage of your colorectal cancer. The main treatment options are surgery (removal of part of the colon and rectum), chemotherapy (drugs used to kill cancer cells), radiation (using high doses of radiation to eliminate the cancer cells or shrink the size of the tumour), and immunotherapy (helps the patient fight cancer cells by boosting the immune system).




The best way to prevent colorectal cancer is screening. According to the American Cancer Society, screening for colorectal cancer should begin at 45 years or younger, if other risk factors are present. Several lifestyle changes can also keep colorectal cancer at bay. Consuming fruits, vegetables, and whole grains provides you with vitamins, nutrients, minerals, and antioxidants, which helps in cancer prevention. Limit your alcohol consumption to one to two drinks per day and quit smoking. Incorporating at least 30 minutes of exercise daily can help maintain a healthy weight and prevent colorectal cancer. In the case of a high risk of colon cancer, you can discuss certain medications with your doctor.




The primary cancer screening tool for colorectal cancer is colonoscopy. An extended, flexible scope is used in a colonoscopy to visualise the colon and rectum for any abnormal growths.  A small piece of this abnormal growth may be removed to analyse the type of growth. Other than colonoscopy, other screening tests are also available. The faecal immunochemical test (FIT) inspects for blood in the stools, whereas the faecal DNA test detects genetic mutations and blood in the stools. Similar to the FIT, the guaiac-based faecal occult blood test also identifies the presence of blood in stools. Flexible sigmoidoscopy helps visualise the rectum and lower colon. Screening tests can help identify colorectal cancer at the earliest, which will help in curing the disease and increase survival chances. Many of these screening tests come with their own advantages and limitations.




Colorectal cancers are abnormal, uncontrolled growth of cells in the colon and rectum. Awareness of the risk factors, signs and symptoms, and various cancer screening tests available for early identification and treatment of colorectal cancers, will help increase cancer awareness and increase your survival rate. Taking necessary preventive measures in your lifestyle and accurately identifying the risk factors can help keep colorectal cancer at bay or aid in the early detection of the disease. Your prognosis for colorectal cancer depends on the stage of cancer, and your response to the treatment.

Dr. Abhai Verma
Meet The Doctor
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