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Prevention and Treatment of Colon Cancer

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Aside from inserting a camera into the colon to check for cancer, genetic screening is another key technique now used all over the world to assess a patient’s risk of developing colon cancer.
  • There is a 10% chance of colon cancer passing down to the next generation through family genes.
  • Techniques are currently available to evaluate the 50 most common genes which play an important role in causing up to 30 types of cancer.
Related information:
Precision Medicine | Preconception Genetic Testing | Targeted Therapy for Cancers | Oncogenetic Screening

Who is at risk?

Genetic factors such as a family history of colon cancer or other cancers places an individual at a higher risk of colon cancer. Especially if a family member has had  breast, uterus, ovary, urinary tract, pancreatic or bile duct cancer. A diet low in fibre and/or high in red meat and other diseases of the colon, such as inflammatory bowel disease, also contributes to the development of colon cancer. In addition, people with metabolic syndromes, like diabetes, obesity, fatty liver or high cholesterol, also have an increased risk.

“Most people have a lot of stress in terms of lifestyle changes and that leads to more diseases similar to the Western countries,” says Dr. Pitulak Aswakul, a gastroenterologist and hepatologist at Samitivej Sukhumvit Hospital, referring to the rates of colon cancer in the west.

Which groups should undertake colon cancer screening?

Everyone over the age of 50 should get screened for colon cancer. Even those under the age of 50 should go for a check-up if they fall under the high-risk bracket due to a:

  • family history of colon cancer 
  • history of chronic colon inflammation
  • or/and a family history of various types of cancer

Screenings to help prevent colon cancer

We cannot emphasize enough the importance of screening for polyps or growths inside the colon plays in preventing cancer. “Colon cancer development is critical. About 70 to 80 percent of colon cancer develops from a small polyp,” says Dr. Pitulak.

Polyps are growths inside the colon that gradually grow in size, and can develop into cancer within 3-5 years. However, not all polyps become cancerous. Thus, detection and removal of a polyp, before it turns cancerous, can prevent colon cancer.

Thanks to more colon cancer screenings, the number of patients diagnosed at the advanced stages of colon cancer have reduced. High-risk individuals should be screened before they are 50 years old.

A colonoscopy is a procedure to examine the colon. During the procedure, doctors insert the colonoscope through the anus and up the whole length of the colon. It takes about 20 to 35 minutes on average. In the case that they detect any polyps it may take longer. This is because they remove the polyps during the procedure itself.

Treatment and prevention through oncogenetic screening

From a total of over 20,000 genes that the body has, around 500 genes are associated with developing cancer. We can split those associated genes into 2 major groups: 

  1. Oncogenes: These are responsible for stimulating cell growth and reproduction to a point whereby they become uncontrollable.
  2. Tumor suppressor genes: These carry out the duty of repairing damaged DNA as well as slowing cell reproduction.

Oncogenetic screening is a modern medical technique that operates according to the principles of “Precision Medicine”. This means that it helps to prevent the disease. It also provides the knowledge that helps to deliver more efficient treatment techniques than ever before. Basically, the technique utilizes data acquired through genetic assessments. Doctors do these assessments in order to get a clearer picture of each individual patient’s risk of developing cancer. As a result, they can prepare the most effective treatment plan for the patient.

Targeted therapy can be used for other conditions

Targeted therapy is not specific to any one condition, neither is it limited to treatments. In fact, we can also use it for prevention and to reduce the chances of recurrence. Owing to the fact that the risk of cancer can be hereditary, it is best to extinguish the chances of developing cancer at its source. This is a particularly important measure for those who have higher risks. Without a doubt, targeted therapy is the most effective  preventive measure for now.

Treating with targeted therapy means fewer side effects

Doctors can also use targeted therapy to treat colon cancer which has already taken hold. This is possible because the method targets the cancerous cells exclusively via medication. In other words, it attacks those cells directly without destroying other, fully functional cells. Therefore, this treatment is sometimes the most appropriate treatment for use against cancer in its spreading stage. Moreover, Oncologists may use it instead of chemotherapy due to its significantly fewer side effects.

Targeted therapy now available in Thailand

The Thai medical field has made significant progress recently, and we are now able to offer oncogenetic screening here. Now patients no longer need to travel abroad for this screening. We can screen around 50 of the most important cells that can produce at least 30 different forms of cancer. Based on the screening, doctors can see the associated risks of developing cancer. Accordingly, they can advise lifestyle alterations and future courses of treatment with increased confidence and without hesitation.

However, please note that doctors can only cure colon cancer if they find it in its early stages. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to get a screening done in order to know the risk level. This is the best and most efficient form of prevention.

Advancements in colon cancer treatment have reduced recovery periods

Treatment modalities for colon cancer have evolved since the advent of minimally-invasive surgery, such as a laparoscopy. This is a medical procedure to examine the interior of the abdominal or pelvic cavity using a slender tube called a laparoscope. To give a better picture, doctors insert this instrument through a small incision to assist with diagnosis or treatment of many different diseases and conditions. In the past, open surgery treatments meant admitting patients into the hospital for a minimum of two weeks. However, minimally invasive surgery usually requires admitting patients for only three or four nights. Moreover, many patients are able to resume regular activities within a few weeks after having had a laparoscopic surgery.

Recovery and prevention of a relapse

For the first few days after colon surgery, it is usually advisable for patients to fast. Gradually, they can begin to move to liquid and soft diets. A balanced diet high in fibre is recommended for patients who have been treated for colon cancer. As nutrition is crucial for recovery, there are no dietary restrictions.

For patients formerly diagnosed with colon cancer, below are ways to reduce the chances of getting it again: 

  • Continued screening for early detection of polyps
  • Regular exercise 
  • Controlled diet rich in fibre and fluids, while low in red meat and fats
  • And regular follow-up sessions 

Effective Treatments for Colon Cancer 

There are many different types of cancer treatment available. However, the type of treatment provided will vary according to the type of cancer and how advanced its growth may be. Common treatment options include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, hormone therapy and surgery – or a combination of some of these.

With continued advancements in modern medicine, many hospitals are now able to offer patients a targeted therapy treatment plan. This form of treatment specifically targets the underlying changes in individual cancer cells. Then, it helps to combat their ability to grow and spread throughout the body. In addition to yielding better overall results, doctors have also found that this form of treatment has significantly less side effects when compared to traditional treatment options such as chemotherapy. All in all, targeted therapy can treat a wide range of cancers and is suitable for patients of all ages.

 

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Related information:
Precision Medicine | Preconception Genetic Testing | Targeted Therapy for Cancers | Oncogenetic Screening

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