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Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Medical City’s Colorectal Unit Celebrates Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

The world celebrates Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month every March and one of the aim of this campaign is to promote colorectal cancer (CRC) screening. In the Philippines, aside from breast and lung cancers, colorectal cancer comes in third as the most common cancer among Filipinos.

In line with the Colorectal Cancer Awareness month, the Colorectal Unit at The Medical City aims to be the forefront to beat colorectal cancer thru proper screening especially as a person reach age 50 onwards. The unit also aims to educate people that health is important as well as early detection of such illness because it can prolong lives especially to those who will be tested positive of CA cells. 

In any form of CA, almost all begins with a small abnormal growth such as in the lining of the colon and rectum (for colorectal cancer) and these are called polyps. The polyps grow slowly and can take around 10 years for some polyps to develop into cancer although in some cases, they just remain polyps. Removing these polyps are important as it reduces the risk of developing cancer. Also, polyps and early stage of colorectal cancer doesn’t really have symptoms such as rectal bleeding, constipation, and abdominal pain.


These are the factors that increase the risk for cancer in the colon and rectum are:
  • age greater than 50 years old
  • personal history of CRC
  • family history of CRC
  • pre-existing disease involving long-term inflammation of the colon  

Age 50 is deemed as a risk factor age for this type of CA as 90% of CRC occurs after the age of 50. A family history of a first-degree relative with CRC is increased two to three-fold. The risk is especially higher when the cancer occurred before the age of 60, or when two relatives have CRC.

Lifestyle factors are also likely to contribute to the formation of cancer in the colon and rectum:
  • cigarette smoking
  • alcohol consumption
  • obesity
  • a diet that has high saturated fat, low fiber, and high red meat consumption.

It is imperative to have a healthy lifestyle by avoiding smoking, not consuming too much alcohol, exercising regularly and having 8 hours of sleep, and eating a healthy meal. These also lowers the risk for emphysema, cirrhosis of the liver, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and heart disease, as well as CRC.

Don’t be afraid to have CRC screening. In several countries, CRC screening is recommended for people starting the age of 50. Screening at an earlier age, usually at 40 is advocated especially in first-degree relatives of patients with CRC, and even earlier in those with other additional risk factors.

The standard screening for CRC is colonoscopy which can actually detect polyps and remove it. The procedure involves a flexible fiberoptic scope with a camera that is inserted through the rectum and is carefully advanced to visualize the colon under mild amnesia. This is an invasive test though and can cause complications like bleeding, puncturing the colon).

Some patients may not want to have this kind of test or find colonoscopy expensive. There is a stool test called Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) that is another alternative to colonoscopy. FIT detects only human blood and is specific for bleeding in the colon. Persons who have a positive FIT are 12 to 40 times likely to harbor cancer than those with negative test. FIT is repeated annually if the initial test in negative. If it turns out positive, a colonoscopy is needed to rule out the presence of cancer.

It is really recommended for people ages 50-75 years of age to have colonoscopy screening especially those with family history of CRC. FIT is suggested if the person is not comfortable with the idea of invasive test. Having a shared decision between the patient and the gastroenterologist is very important. By doing these tests, it is easy to beat and prevent colorectal cancer.


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