About 50% of colorectal cancer cases can be attributed to dietary factors and sedentary lifestyle
Dr Pramod Kumar Julka
Colorectal cancer has emerged as one of the leading causes of cancer deaths in India after breast, cervix and lung cancer. According to the American Cancer Research Fund, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in men and the second most common cancer in women worldwide. Although incidences of colorectal cancer are low in India, cases are on the rise in the past couple of decades.
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How does colorectal cancer start?
In CRC, a tumour is formed in the colon and rectum and after detection, is treated with a combination of chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation.
About 50% of colorectal cancer cases can be attributed to dietary factors and sedentary lifestyle. If we look at eating patterns, having an imbalanced diet, consuming non-vegetarian food daily, eating less of fibrous fruits and vegetables are key reasons.
Other factors are:
- lack of physical activity
- increasing desk jobs
- consumption of alcohol and
As these lifestyle choices are now increasing in eastern countries of the world, many people in India are said to be gradually getting affected by this disease.
What are the symptoms of Colorectal Cancer?
- Blood in stool
- Abdominal or rectal pain
- Diarrhoea and
- Change in bowel habits
The aforementioned pointers are commonly associated with symptoms of colorectal cancer.
Some useful pointers to note about colorectal cancer:
- Get colonoscopy done once in three years after the age of 40 or 50.
- Emphasize on eating a balanced diet, avoiding tobacco use, limiting alcohol intake.
- Exercise regularly as healthy habits can help prevent CRC.
- Avail screening programmes and health checks and consult the right doctors.
A combination of these measures will go a long way in reducing the burden of CRC on India.
Is Colorectal Cancer fatal?
Colon cancer is slightly more common than rectal cancer in the western world, whereas, rectal cancer is more common in India. In areas where colorectal cancer prevails in India, it is reported to be higher in males than in females. It is also observed that metro cities are most affected by colorectal cancer than in rural areas in India. Maximum cases have been reported from cities such as Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai among other metros. In the North East, Aizwal district is common for this form of cancer among males and females.
Prevention and early diagnosis is the key to prevent this cancer and if diagnosed in stage 1 and 2 itself, the chances of cure vary between 70-80%. In 40 per cent of cases, diagnosis occurs at an advanced stage when surgery is the only option to treat this type of cancer. In most cases, the treatment depends on the stage of cancer and the chances of surgery depend on biopsy and pre-operative chemo-radiation. In other countries, public awareness exists about the detection and prevention of CRC. However, in India, there is a lack of a sophisticated mechanism for formal screening programmes.
As for any disease, for colorectal cancer too, it is vital to create awareness and let people know the steps to prevent it through healthy lifestyles. Efforts should be made to increase formal screening programmes among age-appropriate populations and enable members of the public to access them.
Remember, prevention is any day better than cure.
(Dr Pramod Kumar Julka is Senior Director, Max Oncology Daycare Centre. Views expressed are the author’s own.)