Colon cancer, or colorectal cancer, is one of the most common diseases of our time and is characterized by a very insidious course, since it almost never gives bright clinical symptoms in the early stages. At the same time, there are certain risk groups and triggers for its occurrence.
About what to expect from the intestines and how to cope with pathology, AiF.ru told Daniil Markaryan, Candidate of Medical Sciences, Senior Researcher at the University Clinic of Moscow State University. M.V. Lomonosov, coloproctologist, oncologist, surgeon.
In the vast majority of cases, bowel cancer develops in the colon. The large intestine includes 2 sections: the colon and the rectum, says Daniil Markarian.
“A malignant oncological process that develops in the colon is called colorectal cancer. When the colon is affected, it is cancer that develops in the longest part of the colon. Rectal cancer is a malignant lesion of the very last segment of the intestine that ends in the anus, ”says Daniil Markarian.
Colon cancer is the most common malignant disease in Europe and the third most common cancer in the world, says the specialist.
Moreover, this disease is slightly more common in men. In Europe, one in 20 men and one in 35 women will develop bowel cancer at some stage in their lives. In other words, about 35 out of 100,000 men and about 25 out of 100,000 women are affected by the disease every year.
“The incidence of colorectal cancer is higher in the most industrialized and urbanized countries and areas. Most patients with this disease are over 60 years old at the time of diagnosis, but in recent years there has been a clear trend towards a decrease in the average age of patients, that is, the disease is “getting younger,” says the coloproctologist.
To date, the complex mechanisms of initiation and development of colorectal cancer are not fully understood, however, there are several proven unconditioned risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing the disease. “It is important to understand that no risk factor by itself is necessary or self-sufficient for the development of bowel cancer and is not a direct cause of cancer. These factors only contribute to the triggering of cascade mechanisms of mutations in intestinal cells, ”the specialist notes.
The main risk factors for developing such cancer are:
1. Age. The risk of developing colorectal cancer increases with age and peaks by the age of 60-70. It is for this reason that any person over the age of 50 is advised to have a bowel examination.
2. A history of intestinal polyps. Gut neoplasms, called polyps, or adenomas, are not cancer / malignant neoplasms in and of themselves, but these neoplasms can become cancerous over time.
3. A history of colorectal cancer. Even if the tumor has been completely removed during treatment, there is an increased risk of developing a new tumor in a different part of the colon or rectum. For this reason, all patients who have had such cancer should regularly undergo a simple examination for 5 years after treatment.
4. The presence of other types of cancer. The presence of other tumors, for example, lymphoma, endometrial cancer, in a person’s medical history increases the risk of developing colorectal cancer.
5. Inflammatory bowel disease: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. With a prolonged course, these diseases increase the risk of intestinal cancer.
6. Family history. About 20% of colorectal cancer cases have a clear genetic link. If a first-line relative (father, mother, sister, brother) is sick or has had colorectal cancer, the risk of developing colorectal cancer doubles.
7. Wrong way of life.
Lifestyle Risk Factors:
1. Nutrition is the most important factor. Diets high in red meat (beef, lamb, pork) and processed meats (cold meats, cooked meats), high in fat and / or low in fiber may increase the risk of colorectal cancer. High alcohol consumption is also a risk factor for development.
3. Sedentary lifestyle. People who lead a passive lifestyle are at greater risk of developing cancer.
4. Diabetes mellitus of the second type.
5. Smoking not only provokes the risk of polyps, but can also cause cancer of other organs and systems of the body.
What will reduce the risks:
Several factors may protect against the development of bowel cancer, says Daniil Markarian. These include:
- A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains reduces the risk of colorectal cancer.
- increasing physical activity can help reduce the risk of most cancers.
What are the symptoms to determine?
“A suspicion of colorectal cancer can arise under different circumstances, but, first of all, when the so-called“ red flags ”appear – certain complaints or symptoms that require immediate referral to a coloproctologist,” says Daniil Markarian. Such symptoms, the specialist notes, include:
- discharge of blood from the intestines, regardless of the frequency and color of the blood;
- the occurrence or aggravation of chronic diarrhea or constipation;
- abdominal pain;
- change in the shape of the chair,
- the development of anemia (a decrease in blood hemoglobin).
“Colorectal cancer can also be detected through screening studies of at-risk populations. For example, any person over 50 years old must undergo a colonoscopy, regardless of the presence or absence of risk factors, ”says the coloproctologist.
The insidiousness of the disease is precisely in the fact that in the early stages of colorectal cancer, the specialist says, very rarely gives specific symptoms. In most cases, the patient, before the diagnosis is made, notes various vague discomfort in the abdomen, impaired stool, the appearance of various atypical discharge from the rectum. At the earliest stage, as a rule, patients have no complaints at all. Prolonged blood loss that goes unnoticed can lead to iron deficiency and / or anemia, as well as fatigue, shortness of breath, and pale skin.
“If treatment is not timely, the process can be complicated by the development of metastases – the appearance of tumor foci in regional lymph nodes and in distant organs,” says the doctor.
How is it treated
Today, the main treatment for bowel cancer is surgical removal of the tumor. It is important that the surgeon planning surgery has the technology to remove not only the section of the intestine with the tumor, but also to eliminate all the lymph nodes related to the affected section of the intestine.
“In case of metastatic lesions of the lymph nodes, in addition to surgical intervention, chemotherapy is indicated to reduce the risk of recurrence of the disease. The earlier treatment is started, the higher the probability of recovery: in the early stages, the probability of complete recovery from the disease reaches 95%, ”says the coloproctologist.