Colorectal cancer affects men and women of all racial and ethnic groups and is most often found in people of age 50 years and above. However, the incidence in those younger than 50 is on the rise, say doctors.
“The risk factors associated with the development of colorectal cancer are usually related to consumption of red meat, processed meat, alcoholic drinks and obesity. Around 20,000 people die every year in India due to this, said Dr Rajasundaram, The Director of Institute of Oncology, Gleneagles Global Health City.
Around 10 percent of colorectal cancers occur due to inheritance. Consumption of whole grains, dairy products, high fibre diet and being physically active are proven to reduce the risk.
Early detection of this cancer makes the treatment easier. However, the treatment mainly involves surgery and often combined with chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
“Colorectal cancer screening is now recommended for everyone above the age of 50 years. A colonoscopy every 10 years or a sigmoidoscopy and faecal blood testing every 5 years should be done. Colonoscopy which allows the doctor to directly view inside the entire colon also inserts a thin tube with a tiny camera through the anus. The scope also has tiny special instruments at the end, so the doctor can take the biopsy from the tumour and also polyps can be removed, avoiding major surgery,” added Rajasundaram.
Once the diagnosis is done, the patient then undergoes CT scan or MRI of the abdomen and pelvis to assess the spread of the tumour and to determine the stage of cancer. Patients with early stage of cancer are often advised to undergo surgery as the initial treatment. The surgery can be done using minimal access techniques such as laparoscopy or robotic surgery.
“Robotic surgery is a new technology which allows operations to be performed through small incisions using a robotic device. The sophisticated machine, which is completely controlled by the surgeon, allows surgery to be performed with great precision and minimal blood loss. Special instruments and the highly magnified view allow high-quality surgery to be performed. It especially suitable for performing rectal cancer surgery,” said Ajit Pal, a consultant surgeon at the Apollo Hospital.
After the surgery, chemotherapy -- either as tablets or injections or a combination of both -- is often needed to prevent a recurrence. Regular check-ups are required for prevention.