Cancer that starts in the colon or rectum is called colorectal cancer. It is one of the commonest cancer and cause of death in the world, especially in Nigeria. Every day, one person is diagnosed with Colon cancer in Nigeria.
It was really sad that on (29th August 2020) the news of the passing away of one of my favorite Hollywood movie icons “CHADWICK BOSEMAN” popularly known as the “BLACK PANTHER”.
He was reported to have died after 4 years of battling Colon Cancer.
Black Panther was said to have been diagnosed with stage 3 cancer in 2016, and despite being on Chemotherapy, he managed to give us countless moments 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 cancers 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 keep 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. Examples: Breast cancer, Cervical cancer, Cancer 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 and also helps the body to remove waste products i.e. faeces.
“Colorectal Cancer is the cancer of the colon and rectum”.
In this type of cancer, the cells of the colon and rectum grow 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 system 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
• 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 follows.
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 a low-fiber & high-fat diet, as well as those who have a high red meat intake (like beef).
• Hereditary: If a family member has cancer, you 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
• Lack of exercise
These things put you at risk.
How to prevent colon cancer?
You can reduce the chances of cancer by
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.
Eat foods containing 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 white meats like Chicken, Turkey, and fish. This would help reduce the chances of developing the disease.
Try to maintain a healthy weight by exercising daily/regularly.
Alcohol & smoking pose a very high risk to our health and 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 tests, endoscopy, and x-ray. This can be done at most Teaching Hospitals or FMCs in the country that has 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;
- Surgery: The tumors that have 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.
- Chemotherapy: However, in the late stages of the disease, Anti-Cancer drugs are used after surgery, to attack cancer cells and any other cells growing rapidly in the body.
- Radiotherapy: This is the Use of Radiation to target and kill cancer cells.
- Targeted therapy: This uses advanced technologies.
Know that any combination of these 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.
Always ensure to keep healthy by practicing healthy habits and disease prevention strategies like those mentioned above.