What is Colorectal Cancer?
The colon and rectum are at the end of the digestive tract, before the anus. After digestion of food, the remaining waste is channelled through the colon, and it is stored in the rectum before it is passed out at the appropriate time. The colon helps to absorb water, vitamins and minerals.
The signs of colorectal cancer includes abdominal pain, bloatedness, bleeding when passing stools, lumps in the stomach and loss of weight. Cancer of the colon may be genetic or it may occur due to environmental factors. These may include obesity, sedentary lifestyle, high fat and low fibre diet. They usually start as a polyp which is a small growth. This may increase in size to be a pre-cancerous and then a full cancerous growth. This usually takes many years to develop.
Therefore regular checks of the colorectal region with a colonoscopy is important. The colonoscopy can detect and remove small polyps and precancerous lumps. This will prevent the development of cancer.
Colorectal cancer treatment is usually surgery where the part of the colon with the cancer is removed. In advanced cancers, surgery is combined with either chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
A high fibre, low fat diet and active lifestyle, together with regular colonoscopy screening can prevent cancer.
What are the symptoms of Colorectal Cancer?
Early stage stomach cancer rarely causes symptoms, making early detection very difficult. Stomach cancer may or may not present with vague gastrointestinal symptoms. These symptoms can also be associated with other gastrointestinal illnesses, however, and should be discussed with a doctor who can perform tests to determine the cause of the symptoms.
Signs and symptoms of Colorectal Cancer can include:
• Indigestion, heartburn or ulcer-type symptoms
• Difficulty swallowing
• Abdominal pain or vague discomfort in the abdomen, usually above the navel
• Nausea and vomiting and/or bloating after meals
• Vomiting blood, or blood in the stool
• Diarrhoea or constipation
• Loss of appetite
• Unexplained weight loss
• Weakness and fatigue
• Sense of fullness after eating small amounts of food (also called early satiety)
• Symptoms may mimic other conditions, such as GERD, gastritis or peptic ulcer
Signs and symptoms should not be ignored. Most of these symptoms may be caused by things other than stomach cancer. They may also occur with other types of cancer. People who have any of these symptoms, especially if they don’t go away or get worse, should see their doctor to determine the cause and be treated.
What is the treatment for Colorectal Cancer?
Diagnosis and Treatment
Colorectal cancer is a serious condition but in many cases with early diagnosis and treatment, patients have an excellent chance for cure. The initial evaluation will involve doing colonoscopy to visualize the tumor, obtain tissue to confirm the diagnosis and clear the colon of polyps. A CT scan or PET scan will be obtained to determine if the tumor is localized or has spread to other parts of the body. Blood tests will also be obtained to check for your general health status and prepare for surgery.
Surgery is generally the most effective way to deal with Colorectal Cancer. If all tumor(s) can be removed, the prognosis is good. In patients with rectal cancer, or where the tumor is very large or invading an adjacent organ, we may recommend initial chemotherapy or radiotherapy to shrink the tumor before proceeding with surgery.
Laparoscopic Colorectal Surgery
One of the great advances in Colorectal Surgery is the use of minimally invasive surgery for Colorectal Cancer. Laparoscopic surgery avoids the trauma of a large abdominal wound associated with conventional surgery and results in less pain and much quicker recovery for our patients.
The advantages of laparoscopic surgery for Colorectal Cancer are:
• less pain
• quicker recovery
• less risk of chest infection and postoperative complications
• shorter hospital stay
• possible improvement in long term survival for selected patients