Can You Win The Battle Against Colorectal Cancer?


March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.  The Medical City joins the world in the month-long celebration by educating people about colorectal cancer. A symposium was held last March 14, 2017 at the Augusto Barcelon Auditorium. Titled "Advances in the Screening and Management of Colorectal Cancer", the main message it aimed to convey is that cancer screening can save lives.

What I've Learned 

The top three cancers in the Philippines are breast, lung, and liver cancers. Colorectal cancer used to take the fourth spot but has now moved up to third place. Although alarming, there are recent updates in the diagnosis and screening of colorectal cancer, and technological advances in colorectal surgery that can reduce the cases of Filipinos having this disease.

Did you know that...

  • a polyp takes about 15-20 years to develop into cancer
  • colorectal cancer affects more men than women in most parts of the world
  • colorectal cancer is the most common cancer in the gastrointestinal tract in the Philippines
  • the incidence rate begins to rise at age 50 in both male and female
  • 90% of people diagnosed with colorectal cancer are older than 50
  • people who smoke, drink alcohol, consumes red meat and processed meat, and obese have a higher risk of having colorectal cancer

Signs and Symptoms

  • Most patients do not experience any symptoms in the early stages of the disease. The only clue for some is a positive occult fecal exam.
  • Abdominal pain, or presence of palpable abdominal mass
  • Obstructive symptoms include constipation, which sometimes alternate with increased frequency of loose stools.
  • Lower gastrointestinal bleeding (should not be confused with bleeding caused by hemorrhoid)
  • Easy fatigability, shortness of breath, body weakness, angina

Screening Techniques for Colorectal Cancer
  • Fecal Occult Blood Test / (FIT) to be done every year
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy to be done every 5 years
  • Double contrast barium enema every 5 to 10 years
  • Colonoscopy every 10 years

What is colonoscopy?

Colonoscopy is a diagnostic and therapeutic examination of the entire colon with the capacity to remove polyps and do biopsies. It is considered the MOST EFFECTIVE tool for screening colorectal cancer and remains the preferred test. 

For those who are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, Dr. Manuel Francisco Roxas discussed that there are advances in surgery for colorectal cancer.  These include robotic surgery, HIPEC ( Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy) , and the ERAS (Enhanced Recovery After Surgery)

Can you win the battle against colorectal cancer?

The answer is YES. Colon cancer is preventable, treatable and beatable. If you are 50 years old, or if your lifestyle puts you at risk of developing colorectal cancer,  talk to your gastroenterologist and discuss about colorectal cancer screening. The earlier it is detected, the higher is the chance of getting treated.