That one word is enough to send shivers up your spine. It’s easily fits the bill of being the most feared word in the English dictionary, and most often, the one that people don’t know much about.
Cancer is a serious health condition where the body falls short of fighter cells and rapid multiplication of cancer cells. The cancers cells manage to move throughout the body through the blood and lymphatic systems, destroying healthy tissue which is called an invasion. This invasion or uncontrolled cell growth crowds out the normal cells a hindrance in the proper functioning of the body.
Cancer cells can multiply in any part of the body, like the skin, lungs, throat, breasts etc. Like other types of cancers, one of the most common is colorectal cancer.
To begin with, let’s understand what a colorectal cancer is. But then, we first need to start with the basic understanding of what a colon is.
What is a colon?
Colon is most commonly called the large intestine. The end of the small intestine (Ileum) is connected to the first part of the large intestine (cecum), in the lower right of the abdomen, as demonstrated in the image below.
How does the colon function?
The colon plays a significant role in how the human body uses food that a person eats, right from the moment it is chewed and swallowed, to the excretion.
Here’s the itinerary of how food travels.
- Food is first chewed into smaller pieces.
- The tongue and salivary glands turn the food into even smaller pieces to fit into the oesophagus, which connects to the stomach.
- The muscles in the oesophagus move food into the stomach.
- Gastric juices called enzymes then break down the food into even smaller bits.
- All the vitamins and nutrients in food move through the blood vessels to other organs in the body.
- The leftover moves into the colon where the water is absorbed.
- The bacteria in the colon break down the remaining material moving it into the rectum.
- The rectal muscles move the waste out of the body through the anus.
So what happens in colorectal cancer?
Colorectal cancer primarily begins in the colon or the rectum and hence, can be called a colon or rectal cancer as well. Colon and rectal cancers are often grouped because they have many features in common.
How does it start?
Most colorectal cancers begin with a growth called a polyp. However, these polyps are not always cancerous. In these cases, a biopsy is carried out to find if the polyp could be malignant. These polyps grow on the inner lining of the colon or the rectum. The chances of malignancy usually depends on the type of polyp.
The two types of polyps are:
Adenomatous polyps (adenomas): These polyps usually turn cancerous which is why adenomas are termed as a pre-cancerous condition.
Inflammatory polyps and Hyperplastic polyps: These polyps are like tissue growths which are very common, and most do not turn malignant.
Symptoms of colorectal cancer:
- Frequent urination
- Blood in stools
- Severe abdominal pain and bloating
- Feeling heavy or fullness in the abdomen
- Vomiting sensation
- Abnormal and excessive weight loss.
- A lump in the tummy in the back passage felt by your doctor
- Unexplained iron deficiency in men
- Unexplained iron deficiency in women after the menopause
Fecal occult blood test (FOBT) – To check for hidden blood in faecal material or stools.
Sigmoidoscopy – The rectum and lower colon are examined lighted instrument called a sigmoidoscope. Any tissue growths in the rectum and colon can be removed and tested.
Colonoscopy – The rectum and entire colon are examined with an instrument called colonoscope. Growth throughout the colon can be removed and tested.
Virtual colonoscopy or computerised tomographic colonography) – A special x-ray equipment is used to produce 3-D pictures of the colon and rectum which are then assembled into detailed images which show polyps and other abnormalities.
Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Treatments for colorectal cancers are nothing new from most other cancer treatments. Of all the treatments, surgery is the most chosen, where the surgeon removes the colorectal polyp surgically.
Radiation therapy and chemotherapy surgery are other options where the patient is given high-energy X-rays or drugs to stop or kill the growth of cancer cells.
Although the reason for sudden polyp growths is unknown, food, nutrition and lifestyle play a significant role in abnormal growths in the body. A healthy system may not offer chances for malignant polyps to grow. However, sometimes it could also be a genetic carry forward.
The key to beat these nasty colorectal cancers in early detection. If there are any of the above mentioned symptoms, then the wisest decisions would be to consult a doctor immediately to understand what is going on. Once the detections are done, you will get a clearer picture as the doctor will diagnose the issue (cancer or otherwise) and will come up with a course of action and medication/treatment.
With so much advancement in medicine, it’s not impossible to conquer cancer. At Sunshine Hospitals, we take a lot of pride in the way we go about eliminating our patients’ suffering. With state-of-the-art technology at the hands of doctors who know what they are doing, you can be rest assured that you are giving yourself the best.
About the Doctor:
Dr. Nagarjuna Yarlagadda is a reputed Gastroenterologist at Sunshine Hospitals, Gachibowli. After getting his MBBS degree from Rangaraya Medical College in Kakinada, he earned his MD from Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences in Chandigarh Dr. Nagarjuna has 25 years of experience. He served as Additional Professor of Gastroenterologyat NIMS (Nizam Institute of Medical Sciences) and was a consultant gastroenterologist at Krishna Institute of Medical Sciences (KIMS) for 14 years and has a rich teaching experience as well. He also serves people as a member of the Indian Society of Gastroenterology, INASL and SGI. He has published papers and trials in national and international journals.
About Sunshine Hospitals
A Multi-Super Specialty Institution, Sunshine Group of Institutions has its presence at 6 loctions and is promoted by globally reputed Joint Replacement Surgeon Dr. AV Gurava Reddy and like-minded associates who share the objective of making world-standard healthcare available, affordable and accessible to the common man.