Colorectal Cancer: Causes, Risk Factors, Treatment, Prevention

Colorectal Cancer

Cancer that starts in the colon or rectum is called colorectal cancer. It is one of the most commonest cancer and cause of death in the world, especially in Nigeria. Everyday, one person is diagnosed of Colon cancer in Nigeria.

It was really sad to wake up today (29th August, 2020) to the news of the passing away of one of my favorite Hollywood movie icon “CHADWICK BOSEMAN” popularly known as the “BLACK PANTHER”.

He was reported to have died after 4 years of battling with Colon Cancer.
Black Panther was Said to have been diagnosed of stage 3 cancer in 2016, and despite being on Chemotherapy, he managed to give us countless moment of Joy.

May his soul RIP. In memory of him, we would be talking today about Colorectal Cancer.

Colorectal cancer, is one of the most common cancer in Nigeria. It affects both men and women.
It is the fourth most common cancer in Nigerian women (after breast, cervical and liver cancer) and the third most common cancer in Nigerian men (after prostate and liver cancer), yet, most Nigerians are not aware of the disease, or how to prevent the disease till it gets to the late stage when nothing can be done.

This is the essence of this write up today.

What Is Cancer?

Let us explain it this way:
The body is made up of cells that constantly divide but the human body has a way of telling the cells to stop dividing when it’s enough.
In cancer, what happens is that the body losses that power to control and hence, the cells just keeps dividing without control.

“Cancer is a disease that is caused by an uncontrolled division of abnormal cells in a part of the body”.

Cancer can attack any part of the body and when it does, the cancer is named after that part of the body that is affected. Example: Breast cancer, Cervical cancer, Cancer of prostrate, Colorectal Cancer, etc

What Is Colorectal Cancer?

First of all, let’s break it up. “Colorectal” is a combination of 2 words “COLON” and “RECTUM”. Both parts make up the Large Intestine, which helps the body to store waste products of digestion also helps the body to remove waste products i.e faeces.

“Colorectal Cancer is the cancer of the colon and rectum”.

Colorectal cancer, colon cancer
Colorectal Cancer seen through Endoscopy. Image Credits: Clevelandclinic

In this type of cancer, the cells of the colon and rectum grows out of proportion with no control, and no stopping forming masses called “TUMORS”. When this happens, these tumors affect both the function of the digestive systems and can also move to affect those of other systems. This is what we call ” Metastasis”.

Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer

This explains how the doctor would that you have colorectal cancer. Most persons in the early stages of the disease would show no symptoms, but when they appear, symptoms include;

• Blood in Faeces (poo)
• Weight loss
• Weakness
• Loss of appetite
• Tummy swelling
• Tummy pain
• Bloating more
• Frequent diarrhea

What Causes Colorectal Cancer?

The cause of Colorectal cancer is not exactly understood. Research is still ongoing to understand what would make these cells divide & grow in size without control.
However, there are factors that have been known to make some individuals have more chances of developing the disease. These factors are known as Risk factors for Colorectal cancer. They are as follow.

Risk factors for Colorectal cancer
Obesity: being fat or overweight contributes to the risk of developing the disease.
• Excessive alcohol & smoking has been linked to the disease.
• Diet: it is very common in those who consume low fibre & high fat diet, as well as those who have high red meat intake (like beef).
Hereditary: If a family member has cancer, your have a high chance of also having one.
• Age: It is more common in individuals who are above the age of 40yrs.
• Race: It is more common in blacks than whites
Diabetes
• Lack of exercise

These things put you at risk.

How to prevent colon cancer?

You can reduce chances of cancer by

Screening

There are available screening tests to detect most cancers in their early stages, when they are highly treatable. Colorectal cancer screening detects the early stage of the disease called Polyps, and they can be removed before they become cancers.

Healthy Eating

Eat foods contains a lot of fruits and vegetables, with whole grains. Avoid processed meat/foods (like sausage, hotdogs, etc). Cut down on your consumption of red meat (the type that is sold in the market from cow (beef), rather, eat more of white meats like Chicken, Turkey, fish. This would help reduce chances of developing the disease.

Obesity

Try to maintain a healthy weight by exercising daily/regularly.

Social Life

Alcohol & smoking pose a very high risk to our health & well being. They are known to cause a lot of serious medical conditions and complications, especially when consumed in excessive amounts. STOP smoking totally and Cut down alcohol intake.

Where can I Screen for Colorectal cancer?

Screening tests for colon cancer include: stool test, endoscopy as well as x-ray. This can be done at most Teaching Hospitals or FMCs in the country that have such facilities. Once you are above the age of 40, (especially you are a male and have a family history of cancer), it is advised that you screen for colon cancer. If the screening test done is normal, it only needs to be repeated every ten (10) years.

Treatment of Colorectal Cancers?

There are many ways of treating cancers like Colorectal cancer. They include;

  1. Surgery: The tumors that has grown from the uncontrollable growth of cells are surgically removed. This is possible especially in the early stages of the disease, where it might be enough to cure the disease.
  2. Chemotherapy: However, in the late stages of the disease, Anti-Cancer drugs are used after surgery, to attack cancer cells and any other cell growing rapidly in the body.
  3. Radiotherapy: This is the Use of Radiations to target and kill the cancer cells.
  4. Targeted therapy: This uses advanced technologies.

Know that any combination of this methods can be used to achieve a beneficial result. You should see a doctor to know the stage of the disease and the best treatment option for you.

See Side Effects of Chemotherapy Here

Always ensure to keep healthy by practicing healthy habits and disease prevention strategies like those mentioned above.

Please, share this for more awareness and feel free to ask more questions below.

Authors

  • Dr. Ajoke Adewole holds an MBBS Degree from the University of Lagos, UNILAG in Lagos State, Nigeria. She is a Public Health Physician, Epidemiologist, Nutrition Consultant who is passionate about making Africa a healthier continent. You can follow Dr. Ajoke Adewole on Twitter on: @janemichfitness

  • Dr. Echibuogu Nelson Tochukwu currently works as a medical officer at Prince Of Peace Specialist Hospital in Lagos. He holds an MBBS Degree from the Abia State University. He is a story teller, script writer and a lover of sport. You can follow him on twitter below.

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