Dr Venkat is Senior Surgical Oncologist, Apollo Cancer Institutes, Chennai.
In this blog post, he answers FAQs from patients of colorectal cancer and their caregivers.
What exactly is colorectal cancer?
Colorectal cancer refers to cancers that start in the colon or rectum. The colon and the rectum are parts of the large intestine which is a part of your digestive system.
Such cancers may also be called colon cancer and rectum cancer, depending on their location. These two types of cancers are often clubbed together as colorectal cancer because they have many features in common.
Are polyps cancerous?
Polyps are a growth from the inner lining of the colon or rectum. They can be flat(sessile) or hanging into the lumen (pedunculated).
Usually they are harmless. However, some have the potential to turn into cancer over time. So your doctor might keep them on check with colonoscopy at regular intervals
Cancerous polyps are more commonly found in the colon and rectum.
You will be required to undergo a colonoscopy for further investigation of the polyps.
What causes colorectal cancer?
While it is difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of your cancer, there are a few factors that increase your risk of developing colorectal cancer. Here are some of them:
1. A sedentary lifestyle
An inactive lifestyle puts you at risk of different types of cancer, including colorectal cancer, and several other diseases. You can find a lot of ideas of how to stay physically active throughout the day here.
Being overweight is a major risk factor for colorectal cancer. This ties in to the previous point of a sedentary lifestyle being a risk factor.
Your diet can put you at higher risk of colorectal cancer. Red meats and processed meats are known to increase your chances of developing colorectal cancer.
Include more fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet to cut down your risk. Freshly prepared, home cooked meals tend to be healthier than store bought, packaged or frozen meals.
You can find a weekly meal plan for an anti-inflammatory diet here. This diet will reduce your risk of many types of cancers.
Smoking increases your risk of colorectal cancer. You can read more about the link between smoking and cancer here.
While it is well known that moderate to high levels of alcohol consumption is linked to an increase in risk of colorectal cancer, research suggests that even low to moderate levels of drinking causes an increase in risk. It is therefore recommended to avoid alcohol completely.
6. Hereditary causes
There are some conditions that can be passed on within the family that increase your risk of developing colorectal cancer. These include Lynch syndrome, Peutz-Jeghers syndrome (PJS) and Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP).
If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, you may be at higher risk.
While there is nothing you can do to prevent hereditary risks, you can be aware of the symptoms and screening for colorectal cancer. This will help you catch the cancer early while it is still curable.
Is colorectal cancer curable?
Yes, colorectal cancer can be successfully treated, depending on the stage of the disease.