Colorectal cancer: Mass awareness is the key
Advertisements for haemorrhoids, fistula and treatments for these diseases are a common sight glued on walls and pillars on our way back and forth home. Although the prevalence of such ads has decreased in the capital, these advertisements are still ubiquitous in small towns and villages. Unfortunately, many people consider anal diseases as secret or sexually transmitted diseases or the result of sin. Many people do not even go for surgery because of the fear that it will happen again, while some people think medicine is enough.
The number of patients suffering from anal diseases like piles, fistula, and anal fissures is very high in Bangladesh. Sadly, in most cases, public perceptions about these diseases are amorphous, erroneous, and sometimes full of superstitions.
Although awareness programmes on lung cancer or breast cancer have started recently, there is not much awareness about colorectal cancer. Every year around the world, March is celebrated as colorectal cancer awareness month. On this occasion, various awareness programmes including discussions, sessions, and workshops are being organised.
According to recent statistics by International Agency for Research on Cancer’s Globocon 2020 report, globally there were almost 1,931,590 new cases of colorectal cancer cases in 2020, of which around 9,35,173 people die of this disease. In the last two decades, this cancer’s incidences have also increased in the Asia-Pacific region. Cancer has spread to South Korea, Singapore, Philippines, Thailand, and China. Asia has the highest incidence of colon cancer with 49.9% and death from this cancer with 54.2% globally. As per the report, there were 2,753 new cases of colon cancer in Bangladesh in 2020, out of which 1,772 people died.
Colorectal cancer refers to cancer of the colon. It can originate from anywhere in the rectum or colon. Depending on the type of origin, they are called rectum or colon cancer. The type and symptoms of both cancers are almost the same. The disease is usually initiated by the formation of polyps in the colon. The colon is the large intestine, a part of our digestive tract. And the part below which the stool is deposited is called the rectum. Cancer developing in this part is called colorectal cancer. And this cancer is now a very common disease.
There are myriads of treatments available for this type of cancer. As suggested by expert healthcare professionals, the best option is to go for a session of chemotherapy at first. After patients have neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy, then they should go on to have surgery for far-reaching positive outcomes. There are two types of surgery – keyhole surgery and open surgery. It is better to opt for keyhole surgery (minimally invasive surgery) owing to a quicker recovery time and less pain.
Regular intake of fibrous, antioxidants, vitamin and mineral-rich foods is very important in preventing colon cancer. In addition to controlling weight, walking for at least 30 minutes daily, avoiding alcohol and smoking also play a helpful role in preventing this cancer. Regular screening or examination is essential for diagnosing people in their forties.
Diseases of the lower part of the oesophagus, especially of the colon, cannot be observed by a physician who treats other parts of the body. Despite a large number of patients in Bangladesh, no colorectal institute or separate hospital has been set up in Bangladesh. Although piles seem to be a common disease to many people, bleeding, pain, and swelling in the anus can all cause cancer. So, caution and awareness are needed to prevent this curable cancer.
The writer is an Associate Professor of Surgery and the Joint Secretary of Society of Surgeons of Bangladesh.