Common from the age of 50, studies show that the diagnosis develops in younger people
Photo: DISCLOSURE – People should know the signs and seek expert advice
From local reports
Published on 03/09/2022
The month of March, known for raising awareness against colorectal cancer, and which takes on the color navy blue, brings a fundamental alert: the importance of early diagnosis and treatment. According to data from the National Cancer Institute (INCA), it is estimated that during the 2020-2022 triennium, there will be 20,520 cases of the disease in men and 20,470 in women each year. The neoplasm is still on the list of the three types of cancer that most affect Brazilians, causing an estimated 20,578,000 deaths in 2020.
With a higher incidence from the age of 50, and which can increase with age, the colorectal tumor develops in the large intestine, also called the colon, or in its terminal part, in the rectum. It should also be remembered that the main type of colorectal tumor is adenocarcinoma and in 90% of cases it comes from polyps in the area which, if not identified and removed, can evolve over the years and become cancerous. .
However, we must also look at the diagnosis in younger people. One of the scientific studies supporting the argument was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute and carried out in the United States from 1974 to 2013. The analysis showed that in people between the ages of 20 and 39, by For example, the number of new cases of bowel cancer has increased from 1% to 2.4% per year since the 1980s. The incidence of rectal cancer has increased more rapidly (about 3.2% per year, from 1974 to 2013, among people aged 20 to 29) 2.
According to Artur Ferreira, oncologist at Oncoclínicas in São Paulo, it is very important that people know the signs of colorectal cancer and seek a specialist as soon as possible. “Although the disease is often silent, the patient should observe if there is a change in bowel habits, such as constipation, diarrhea or narrowing of stool caliber, lack of feeling of relief after evacuation , as if all the fecal contents were not eliminated, blood in the stool, cramps, abdominal pain, weight loss for no apparent reason, weakness and a feeling of fatigue,” he explains.
Among the risk factors for colorectal cancer, it is possible to observe a relationship with dietary and lifestyle habits, in addition to previous health conditions. As a form of prevention, the oncologist insists that it is necessary to follow certain guidelines.
“Invest in a high fiber diet and low intake of red and processed meats, physical activity, avoidance of alcoholic beverages and smoking, and maintenance of a healthy weight. In addition, it is important to investigate whether the patient is suffering from chronic inflammation of the intestine, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, in addition to a family history of cases of colorectal cancer,” explains Artur Ferreira.
First, the oncologist will analyze the patient’s history and whether there are any signs of disease risk. Then, for the diagnosis to be effectively defined, it is necessary to carry out tests, the first of which is physical evaluation. In it, the doctor will palpate the abdomen to look for some type of abnormality, such as enlarged organs or masses at the site, and in some cases perform a digital rectal exam. With the finger protected by a lubricated glove, the doctor will assess whether there is a growth in the patient’s rectum.
“In addition to the physical examination, to confirm the diagnosis, a colonoscopy examination should be requested for the biopsy of suspicious areas. Once the diagnosis is confirmed, tests such as CT scan, magnetic resonance, blood tests and, in some cases, the Pet Scan must be carried out”, he comments.
Along with these tests, the doctor will also assess at what stage the colorectal cancer is classified. According to the oncologist, this information is essential to determine the stages of treatment and understand whether other organs are compromised or not.
In most cases, fortunately, colorectal cancer is potentially curable. However, it is essential that diagnosis occurs early, thereby increasing the success of treatment. “The multidisciplinary team will assess each case separately, adopting the strategies and options available to the patient,” comments the oncologist.
Treatments for neoplasia can be defined in two types: local (surgery, radiotherapy, embolization and ablation) and systemic (chemotherapy, immunotherapy or targeted therapies).
It should also be remembered that colorectal cancer is a tumor that can be avoided during the precancerous phase. The procedure involves the removal of intestinal polyps, by colonoscopy, which may appear on the inner lining of the large intestine and rectum.
“Unlike breast cancer, for example, where the disease is usually identified at an early stage with routine exams, colorectal tumors can be discovered in the precancerous stage with a colonoscopy. The good news is that when lesions are removed early , the onset of cancer can be prevented,” he concludes.