Colorectal cancer: what do we need to know?

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Reduce the consumption of red meat and increase the consumption of vegetables and fruits is key in colon cancer.

Ten years ago the experts estimated for 2020 the cancer cases that would be in our country based on the growth of the time. However, last January, the Spanish Society Medical Oncology (SEOM), revealed in its report The figures of cancer in Spain 2017, that in Spain there were 247,771 new tumors in 2015, a figure that surpasses in more than thousand the forecasts based on the population growth for 2020.

“As with other malignancies, these data confirm that the incidence of cancer in general and colorectal cancer in particular are growing above expectations“, Explains Jorge Aparicio, a spokesperson for SEOM and a medical oncologist at the La Fe Hospital in Valencia, who points out that the possible causes of this increase are due to the aging of the population, the reduction of mortality due to cardiovascular causes and environmental factors, such as type of food that follows the population, sedentary lifestyle and consumption of tobacco and alcohol, among others.

Nowadays colorectal cancer is the one with the highest incidence in Spain, that is to say: 44,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. Despite these figures, the truth is that it is not the best known by the population. One of the main problems when diagnosing this disease is that, according to the latest data from the Spanish Association Against Cancer, 70 percent of cases of colorectal cancer occur in people without any medical problem. In view of this, the experts consider as a population at risk people over 50 years of age with no family history or predisposing diseases, and at high risk to people with a family history of colon cancer, intestinal polyps or inflammatory bowel disease.

“Colorectal cancer is a disease of advanced age; its incidence increases progressively after 60 years and it is more common among the direct relatives of patients who have suffered from colorectal cancer, “Aparicio adds. The expert warns that we can prevent it if we avoid its risk factors (alcohol consumption, obesity, excessive intake of red meat) and we use protective factors (physical activity, consumption of vegetables and low doses of aspirin).

In addition, Aparicio emphasizes that there is a effective early diagnosis: the determination of fecal occult blood after 50 years. “These programs are being implemented in most Autonomous Communities and are recommended for all healthy adults between 50 and 70 years,” he adds.

What happens when the cancer is in a metastatic phase?

When a cancer passes from a tissue or organ to other tissues or organs of the body, it is called metastasis. If this situation occurs in colorectal cancer, we will be facing metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC). In fact, in part due to the absence of symptoms, 25 percent of new cases of colorectal cancer are diagnosed when the disease is in a metastatic stage.

The appearance of metastasis worsens the prognosis of patients with colorectal cancer. Some cases can be cured if metastases can be operated on and removed. For the rest, the treatment is palliative but can significantly improve survival and quality of life. There is a growing number of drugs and local techniques that benefit this type of patients and are well tolerated, “says Aparicio.

Given this situation, the specialist adds that there is insist on prevention and early diagnosis. “If a localized colorectal cancer develops there are measures, such as chemotherapy adjuvant or radiotherapy, which can prevent the development of metastasis. But if these occur, you have to go to a medical oncologist to assess the best treatment within a multidisciplinary committee.

In fact, these local techniques, the new precision treatments aimed at molecular targets of the patient's tumors, are increasing the survival rates in all stages of colorectal cancer.

Finally, the expert indicates that it is essential that when a patient receives the diagnosis he or she goes to reliable sources to obtain reliable and verified information, such as the pages of scientific societies or patient associations. Also, remember some of the general recommendations that people with this cancer should follow:

  • Monitor the diet: In this sense, it is important to reduce the consumption of red meat and boost that of fruits and vegetables. In addition, it is essential to restrict alcohol consumption.
  • Sport: include physical exercise in daily routines, avoid overweight and obesity and go to the controls and reviews of the oncologist are key to controlling the disease.
  • Chemotherapy: In the case of receiving chemotherapy, the oncologist will be able to guide and inform about the specific care and adverse effects of the treatment.

More than half of patients with colorectal cancer survive their disease“, Concludes Aparicio.

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