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Colorectal cancer symptoms: What you need to know | Health

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Colorectal or colon cancer originates from the growth of cells within the colon, which is a section of the large intestine. The large intestine serves as the final part of the digestive system, responsible for breaking down food for bodily use.

Colorectal cancer symptoms: What you need to know (Photo by Twitter/EvaSmartAI)
Colorectal cancer symptoms: What you need to know (Photo by Twitter/EvaSmartAI)

Although it primarily affects older individuals, we are now seeing more and more younger patients with colorectal cancer. In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Ganesh Nagarajan, Director of Hepatobiliary Pancreatic Gastrointestinal Oncology at Nanavati Max Institute of Cancer Care, explained, “Typically, it begins with the formation of small cell clusters known as polyps inside the colon. While most polyps are non-cancerous, some have the potential to evolve into colon cancer over time. As polyps often do not exhibit symptoms, regular screening tests are recommended by doctors to detect and remove them to prevent colon cancer.”

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He elaborated, “In some cases, colorectal cancers with polyps are hereditary. In cases where colorectal cancer does develop, various treatments such as surgery, radiation therapy( for rectal cancers ), and medications including chemotherapy and immunotherapy can be employed to manage it effectively. We routinely perform minimal access surgery for colorectal cancers by robotic or laparoscopic techniques to improve outcomes and hasten recovery but it is the need of the hour to spot the symptoms of this cancer to seek timely intervention.”

These are the symptoms of colorectal cancer:

Dr Ganesh Nagarajan shared, “Colon cancer can often be asymptomatic in its early stages, with symptoms only manifesting once the cancer has grown to a certain size or reached a specific location within the large intestine. These symptoms may include alterations in bowel habits, such as increased instances of diarrhea or constipation, as well as rectal bleeding or blood in the stool. Additionally, individuals may experience persistent discomfort in the abdominal region, including cramps, gas, or pain.”

He revealed, “Other potential signs of colon cancer are a sensation of incomplete bowel emptying during defecation, weakness or fatigue, and unexplained weight loss. However, potential warning signs such as rectal bleeding or blood in the stool should be taken seriously and promptly discussed with the doctor. By being aware of these symptoms and seeking medical attention for any concerning changes in health, individuals can potentially catch colorectal cancer at earlier stages when treatment options are more promising.”

Asserting that seeking timely intervention after the detection of symptoms of colorectal cancer is crucial for effective treatment and increased chances of survival, Dr Ganesh Nagarajan said, “Despite the potential discomfort and fear associated with acknowledging these symptoms, early detection can significantly impact the outcome of the disease. Therefore, being vigilant and proactive in monitoring any signs such as changes in bowel habits, blood in stool, unexplained weight loss, or persistent abdominal discomfort is vital for maintaining overall health.”

He concluded, “Being proactive about routine screenings can aid in detecting any abnormalities before noticeable symptoms arise. By advocating for regular colonoscopies or other recommended tests, one can take control of their health and potentially identify colorectal cancer at its earliest stages. This proactive approach serves as a critical step toward reducing mortality rates and improving the overall prognosis for those affected by this disease.”

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