By Prof. Dr. Somashekhar SP
Colorectal cancer is a type of cancer that affects the colon or rectum, both of which are part of the large intestine. It is the third most common cancer in both men and women. According to GLOBOCAN 2020, which provides estimates of cancer incidence and mortality worldwide, there were an estimated 103,300 new cases of colorectal cancer and 45,900 deaths from the disease in India in 2020. It is important to note that early detection and screening can greatly improve the chances of successful treatment and recovery from colorectal cancer.
If you see countries like Japan and Korea, these are two countries that have mandatory screening programs for specific cancers such as colorectal cancer. This results in these cancers being detected and treated early using minimally invasive surgery methods that can potentially cure them, with no additional chemo or radiation required. Such programs can help manage the incidence of such events and further lower it, especially for a country like ours, which has a massive population.
Need for early screening and detection:
Screening for colorectal cancer is still low in India due to several reasons. Lack of awareness about the importance of early detection, inadequate access to screening facilities, and cultural beliefs that prevent people from seeking medical help are some of the key factors that contribute to the low screening rates.
To improve colorectal cancer screening rates in India, several measures can be taken. First, public awareness campaigns and educational programs should be initiated to increase knowledge and awareness about the importance of screening for colorectal cancer. Second, healthcare providers should be encouraged to offer screening services to their patients and make them aware of the different screening options available. Third, efforts should be made to increase the availability and accessibility of screening facilities, particularly in rural and remote areas. Lastly, collaborations between healthcare providers, government agencies, and other stakeholders should be strengthened to ensure that screening services are affordable, accessible, and of high quality. Today, there are tests that are available to the masses called the faecal antibody test, which is potentially one of the most accurate tests to determine the presence of colorectal cancers that are not only affordable but also easily available to patients in India.
Today individuals must ideally screen themselves once a year post the age of 30. However, in the case of individuals that have a history of cancer in their family, screening should begin as early as 26 years of age among both men and women.
By addressing these issues, it is possible to improve screening rates for colorectal cancer in India and reduce the burden of this disease on the population.
Role of robotic-assisted surgery in treating colorectal cancers:
Today we know that colorectal cancer is one of the few cancers that can be treated even if it’s found in the later stages, through a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy. The success of treatment depends on various factors, including the stage of cancer, the patient’s overall health, and the response to treatment. Early detection and timely treatment can improve the chances of successful treatment and recovery.
The field of surgery is constantly evolving, and robotic surgery has emerged as a promising technology, such as the da Vinci surgical system, that can provide numerous benefits to patients, surgeons, and healthcare providers. In India, there is a growing need for surgeons to take up robotic surgery as it offers several advantages, including increased precision, reduced blood loss, shorter hospital stays, faster recovery, and improved outcomes. As per the recent consensus statement published by CRSA, the use of robotic-assisted surgery can offer several benefits to patients with colorectal cancer. By adopting this technology, surgeons can provide better quality care to their patients while also enhancing their own skills and expertise. Additionally, the increasing demand for minimally invasive surgical procedures in India makes robotic surgery an essential tool for meeting the evolving needs of patients and the healthcare system.
To summarize, colorectal cancer is a significant health concern in India and worldwide, and early screening and detection are crucial for the effective management of the disease. With the increasing incidence of disease, there is a pressing need to increase awareness and access to screening services and to promote the use of robotic surgery in the management of colorectal cancer in India and other countries. Early screening and timely intervention can improve the chances of successful treatment and recovery, ultimately reducing the burden of this disease on individuals and society.
(The author is a Chairman – Medical Advisory Board, Aster DM Healthcare