Colon is probably one of the most important organ of the body, also called as the large intestine it is the final section of the digestive tract.
Its primary function includes the absorption of water, electrolytes and all the remaining nutrients left in food as well as the elimination of large solid wastes and toxins.
The colon however is also one of the most neglected part of the body. That negligence often results to various health problems like constipation, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome and finally colorectal cancer or colon cancer.
“Colorectal cancer has certainly become a real concern in the Philippines. The growing number of incidence and mortality worldwide have put the disease as the third most common type of cancer for both men and women, after lung and breast cancers.”
Dr. Frederick Dy, gastrointestinal oncologist, president of the Philippine Society of Gastroenterology (PSG) and a leading expert in endoscopy, said during a media conference about colon cancer awareness held yesterday (Feb 22) at the Manila Diamond Hotel in cooperation with Westmont Pharmaceuicals.
Dr. Frederick Dy is joined in the panel by fellows, Dr. Denis Ngo, Dr. Judith Gapasin-Tongco and Dr. Ma. Teresita Cabreira.
Colorectal cancer is a cancer that starts in the colon or the rectum, a malignant tumor arising from the inner walls of the colon or large intestine. More than 95% of colorectal cancers starts from an adenoma polyp or benign tumors formed from glandular structures in epithelial tissues of the large intestine. Most colorectal cancers develop slowly over many years without showing any symptoms.
According to studies made by the World Health Organization (WHO), colon cancer is now the fifth most common type of cancer for both sexes here in the Philippines. In fact, former President Corazon “Cory” Aquino died of this disease in 2009.
Other known Filipino personalities whose death were caused by colon cancer:
- Charlie Davao (2010)
- Susan Fuentes (2013)
- Rio Diaz (2004)
Elsewhere in the world, His Holiness Pope John Paul II, US President Ronald Reagan, actress Audrey Hepburn, Bee Gees singer Robin Gibb, and even Peanuts cartoonist Charles Schulz, they all succumbed to the deadly disease.
Colorectal cancer accounts for about 8% of cancer-related deaths in the world, with 774,000 deaths occurring in 2015. The estimated number of patients that will be affected by colon cancer is 2.2 million with 1.1 million deaths annually by 2030.
In the Philippines, 4,901 deaths out of the 8,553 incidences of colorectal cancer have been reported in 2012 alone and according to experts these numbers are not getting any lower.
With the increase in incidences, colon cancer is now among the deadliest diseases in the country.
According to Dr. Dy, colorectal cancer is caused by both modifiable and non-modifiable risks, two of which are lifestyle and diet. And most often, it is asymptomatic (or a disease that has no symptoms) in the initial stage.
A diet mainly high in processed meat will be a major risk factor.
Aside from diet, other risk agents includes age (50 and above), obesity, alcohol, cigarettes, and inherited genetic mutation as well.
Colorectal cancer is basically asymptomatic in the early stages, but as a general rule any change in bowel movement as well as in the form and consistency of the stool may be an early sign of the disease.
Other signs to watch out for are:
- Shortness of Breath
- Narrow, pencil-liked stools
- Diarrhea or Constipation
- Cramps or Bloating
The red flags however are the presence of blood in the stool or an unexplained sudden weight loss.
Once any one of these symptoms manifests accompanied by an unexplained change in your bowel movement – you should see your doctor at once and have yourself tested for colon cancer. Because it is always more wise to be cautious than to be sorry in the future.
Now, colon cancer, is highly preventable as long as the patient involves him or herself in its prevention by embracing a more healthy lifestyle and a regular visit to the doctor even before turning 50.
For those who are 50 years of age and above, Dr. Dy encourages these patients (even those without symptoms) to submit themselves for screening for colorectal cancer because this is the age when the appearance of polyps increases.
“Colon cancer doesn’t begin as cancer immediately; it starts with pre-malignant precursors called polyps. If left unattended, these polyps can grow over time, blocking intestinal passages, causing discomforts and then becomes a full blown cancer. Young people have lower risk but they are not immune to it.” Dr. Dy added.
So as a general rule of prevention, keep a healthy diet away from processed food and an active lifestyle, here are some points to remember:
- Stay away from (or minimize intake of) a high fat diet – this increases the risks of getting the disease
- Stay away from (or minimize intake of) grilled meats and processed food like bacon, tocino, hotdogs and sausages
- Make it a habit to eat vegetables and maintain a diet that is rich in fiber
- Kick the bad habits – smoking and drinking alcohol are heavy risk factors
- Stay active, exercise – exercise – exercise!
A full-blown cancer may be treated by either surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
But as with any diseases – detrimental or not – PREVENTION is still best than cure!
In the case of colorectal cancer, early detection and screening and the removal of polyps are the key to preventing the disease.
The challenge however is how to get people to take their gastrointestinal health seriously. And that is actually the inspiration of yesterdays special media forum colon cancer.
Organized by the Philippine Society of Gastroenterology (PSG) with the support of Westmont Pharmaceuticals (a division of Unilab), the conference at the Manila Diamond Hotel served as a venue to raise more awareness with regards to the disease.
Joing the doctor panelists from PSG during the conference were Westmont and Unilab representatives: Carmela Nicole Lerma (Brand Manager/Juvenaid and Movelax), Naomi Lingao (Brand Manager/Liverprime and GI Norm), Jobbie Joseph Gloria (Brand Manager/Omepron and Surelax) and Bless Marcos-Espin (Group Product Manager Gastro Portfolio).
In parting, the doctors said that while colorectal cancer is not as of this moment an urgent priority of the Department of Health (DOH), PSG is doing what they can to help promote awareness about the disease. They help train doctors to specialize on gastroenterology so there will be more capable hands to help the growing number of victims of the disease and they go down to the communities to help educate more people about the dangers of colon cancer and how to prevent it.
The doctors also discourages the use of alternative methods such as colon cleansing as a way to prevent colon cancer. Because they said that these procedures actually do more harm than good.
The underlying message is that colon cancer is preventable, if.. proper screening are performed early for all individuals that are at risk. The only way to beat colon cancer is to have the courage to face it head on and early!
March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month!