FILIPINOS should undergo regular screening for colorectal cancer to treat — and cure — the disease, which is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the Philippines, doctors said.
“Colorectal cancer is preventable, treatable and beatable,” Ian Homer Y. Cua, a gastroenterologist and hepatologist, told a Radio Veritas show on March 11, when the nation celebrated Philippine Digestive Health Week.
Colorectal or colon cancer is a disease where the cells in the large intestine or rectum grow out of control. In the Philippines, colon cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death, accounting for 9.9% of deaths.
One of the risk factors of colorectal cancer is age, with about nine of 10 cases occurring in people over 50 years old.
People with a family history of the disease, inherited genetic mutations, a diet high in processed food, a sedentary lifestyle and a habit of smoking are more prone to get the disease.
Polyps, which are small growths that line the colon, will take about 10 to 15 years to develop into colon cancer, Mr. Cua said.
Colorectal polyps and colorectal cancer don’t always cause symptoms, he added, which is why screening is very important.
“Some patients may experience bloody stools, unexplained weight loss and changes in bowel movement, but not all have these symptoms,” the doctor said in Filipino.
A colonoscopy, a procedure that involves the use of a tube to check the insides of the colon, is the gold standard for detecting the disease.
Precancerous polyps, can be immediately removed, Mr. Cua said. “We also have virtual colonoscopy using a CT (computerized tomography) scan to produce images of the colon and rectum.”
People who have no risk factors or any family history of the disease may start screening for it starting at the age of 50. Those that do will need to start screening at an earlier age.
Treatment options depend on the stage of the cancer and overall health of the patient, Mr. Cua said.
“If diagnosed early, the patient can undergo surgery to remove the cancer, and then have their intestines reconnected afterwards, followed by chemotherapy or radiation therapy,” he said.
A multidisciplinary approach is needed for such a prognosis, he told the radio show. A team that includes a gastroenterologist, medical oncologist and radiation oncologist will determine the best course of treatment for the patient.
The Department of Health in December released its clinical practice guidelines for colon cancer in support of the law on universal healthcare.
Mr. Cua cited to need to make healthy lifestyle choices, including a diet with fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
“Regular screening and early detection can greatly improve the chance of success of treatment and recovery,” he added.
Former Philippine President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed Proclamation 930 on March 18, 2020 declaring every second week of March as “Philippine Digestive Health Week.”
March is also Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. — Patricia B. Mirasol