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Colon Cancer: Treatable and Beatable

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Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in the world. In Thailand, colon cancer is the second and third most common cancer in men and women, respectively (statistics from 2012). Recently, there has been an increase in the number of patients with colon cancer due to a lack of information and preventive measures.

Colon cancer occurs when healthy cells in the colon become abnormal and start uncontrollably growing in numbers. Changes may take years to present themselves; at the beginning, they are simply polyps, but if left untreated, the polyps can develop into cancer. The exact causes of colon cancer are unknown, but there is a correlation between incidence of colon cancer and an increase in age. Colon cancer is less common in people younger than 40, while the risk is more than two times higher in people ages 50 and older. However, this does not mean that people younger than 50 have no chance of developing colon cancer. According to statistics, about one in seven colon cancer patients are younger than 50 years old. The risk factors include hereditary conditions, a family history of colon cancer, a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease, particularly in patients who have had the condition for more than seven years, a personal history of colonic polyps, a personal history of ovarian cancer, cancer of uterus and breast cancer; a lack of physical exercise, obesity, and smoking.

According to Dr. Thawat Mongkolporn, colon cancer often has no symptoms. In many cases, patients do not realize they have colon cancer because the symptoms that do appear are consistent with other conditions. If you begin to experience symptoms like diarrhea, constipation, abdominal bloating, blood or change of consistency in your stool, rectal bleeding, change in bowel habits or fatigue that lasts longer than two weeks, please seek immediate medical attention to receive a diagnosis and screening.

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If a polyp is found during screening and is reasonably big, well-formed and easy to see with the camera, then the procedure is straightforward and relatively simple. The difficulty occurs when a polyp is barely formed and flat (referred to as a sessile polyp), or is in a location that is difficult to access (referred to as deep place polyps), or looks like the inner lining of your colon (referred to as an adenoma polyp). In these cases, identifying the polyp becomes very challenging; and because of this challenge, newer, more innovative techniques are utilized.

Through the collaboration with SANO hospital in Japan, a worldwide leading hospital specializing in gastrointestinal endoscopy, Samitivej was introduced to the Narrow-Band Image International Colorectal Endoscopic Classification (NICE). NICE is a cutting edge diagnostic method using an advanced screening technique to diagnose hard-to-detect cancers in their early stages before they reach elevation. If an abnormality is detected, NICE allows for prompt treatment and removal. Narrow-Band Image International Colorectal Endoscopic Classification is more accurate for finding hard-to-detect cancers; in other words, the benefits of NICE are life saving.   

Samitivej Hospitals have introduced lifesaving techniques for removing abnormal tissues from the colon or stomach. Endoscopic Mucosal Resection (EMR) and Endoscopic Submucosal Dissection (ESD) are forms of minimally invasive surgery (MIS). With smaller incisions, MIS causes less tissue damage and pain, along with shorter recovery times.

After patients have undergone surgery, Dr. Thawat advises that they eat more fruits, vegetables and high fiber foods, exercise regularly, and avoid high fat and high calorie foods. These simple steps will reduce the risk of developing colon cancer.  

Although colon cancer is a silent killer, it can be treated and cured. Never give up; stay strong and remember that you have a chance to beat the cancer. Samitivej Hospital is promoting “Blue Ribbon, Stop Colon Cancer” in order to spread awareness, promote healthcare, and encourage prevention so that everyone has the knowledge to help them avoid colon cancer. It’s important to take care of your health, and stay healthy and happy.

Minimally Invasive Surgery (MIS) – New standard of care for surgical procedures

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Thawat Mongkolporn, M.D. Summary: Internal Medicine Internal Medicine