By JEFFARAH GIBSON
Tribune Features Writer
THROUGH various efforts this month, local doctors and health care providers are hoping to provide Bahamians with as much knowledge as possible on colorectal cancer disease, more commonly known as colon cancer.
During last week’s Doctors Hospital’s ‘Distinguished Lecture Series’, Dr Beverton Moxey discussed the colon and the prevention and treatment of colorectal cancer. The month of
March is dedicated to colorectal cancer awareness.
“Colorectal (large bowel) cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the inner lining of the colon or rectum,” Dr Moxey said.
He said most colon and rectal cancers originate from benign wart-like growths on the inner lining of the colon or rectum called polyps or flat lesions.
“Some of the symptoms of colorectal cancer are a change in bowel habits, bright red or dark blood in the stool, discomfort in the abdomen, including frequent gas, pains, bloating, fullness, and cramps, unexplained weight loss, constant tiredness or unexplained anaemia,” Dr Moxey said.
“The difference between polyps and flat lesions are very simple, polyps protrude into the lumen and flat lesions stay to the lining. And these polyps and flat lesion are what have the ability to transform into cancer. So it takes more than 10 years for someone to develop cancer from a polyp. This can largely be prevented by detection at an early stage,” he said” Dr Moxey said.
With the exception of breast and cervical cancer in women and prostate cancer in men, Dr Moxey said colorectal cancer is the most frequently occurring cancer.
“Colorectal cancer is one of the second leading causes of death in the US. Lung and prostate cancers are more common in men and lung and breast cancer in women when compared to colorectal cancer. However, when we look at the occurrence of colon cancer in men and women it is equal in terms of the amount of patients that are affected. So men are not affected more than women and women are not affected more than men,” he said.
Though specific causes of colorectal cancer are unknown, there are certain factors that can increase a person’s chance of developing colorectal cancer.
“Some of those risk factors include polyps, age, inflammatory bowel disease, diets high in saturated fats such as red meat, if you have a personal or family history of cancer you are also at risk, obesity, smoking and genetic syndrome,” he said.
Hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), often called Lynch syndrome, accounts for approximately five per cent to 10 per cent of all colorectal cancer cases, Dr Moxey said.
“The risk of colorectal cancer in families with HNPCC is 70 per cent to 90 per cent, which is several times the risk of the general population.”
Dr Moxey said genetic testing for the most common HNPCC genes is available. Additionally, measures can be taken to prevent the development of colorectal cancer.
The most effective prevention for colorectal cancer is early detection by screening and removal of precancerous colorectal polyps, he said.
There are a number of screening methods for colorectal cancer. In some cases a faecal occult blood test is done, or a double contrast barium enema, virtual colonography, sigmoidoscopy and a colonoscopy.
Dr Moxey encouraged persons to find out as much information as possible on colorectal cancer and take the proper the steps to protect their health and lives.