Being aware of the warning signs can be helpful in treating this condition on time.
Medical advisor Sandra Avendaño – Coloproctologist
Gastric problems are becoming more and more common, even at an earlier age. Not eating on a regular schedule, the use of condiments, preservatives in food, carbonated beverages, the excessive use of alcohol, processed meats and red meats tend to trigger problems in the digestive system and lead to heartburn, gastritis, ulcers, fatty liver and different types of cancer.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2012, the most frequently diagnosed cancers among men were lung, prostate, colon, rectal, stomach and liver cancer. In 2008, there were 5,600 diagnosed cases of colon cancer, a disease that killed 3,000 people that year, a mortality rate of 50% of diagnosed cases. Sandra Avendaño, a coloproctologist that has spent years helping patients fight colon cancer through prevention and getting an early diagnosis, argues that nobody should have to die from this disease.
“Almost 100% of patients in the early stages of the disease recover. The survival rate lowers as the stages increase,” Dr. Avendaño explains.
Some of the warning signs of the onset of colon cancer or its progression include blood in the stool, which is often associated with hemorrhoids. Changes in your bowel movements is also a symptom: going from being constipated to having diarrhea, when before this was not normal for you. When the disease is at an advanced stage, these symptoms can include abdominal pain, weight loss, anemia, extreme fatigue, thin stools, or a lump or mass that can be felt in the abdomen.
Because it is a difficult disease to diagnose, in Colombia it is recommended to get an exam called a colonoscopy as part of the screening process for detecting colon cancer early. This exam is especially recommended for people over age 50 and for those who are younger, but present risk factors or are experiencing related symptoms. The most important thing you can do is to see your doctor regularly as part of your routine health and disease prevention checkups.
WHO clarifies that in order to diagnose and treat cancers such as skin, breast, colon, rectal, cervical or mouth cancers on time, it is important to be familiar with their initial symptoms and signs.
“Getting an early diagnosis is especially important when there are no systematic or efficient research methods that have been applied to a large population or, common to many areas with limited resources, there’s no treatment. The problem is that with a lack of methods for diagnosing and treating the disease early, patients are diagnosed at its very latest stages, when treatment can no longer be applied.”
In order to reduce the risk of colon cancer, Avendaño recommends reducing the consumption of red meats, eating them no more than once or twice a week, and avoiding processed meats as much as possible as they increase your risk of colon cancer by 17%. She also recommends reducing your intake of alcohol, which increases the risk by 53%, as well as cigarettes, which increase your risk by 35%. “The recommendation is to eat a lot of fiber, but not the type that comes processed in powder form; the most important kind that comes from fruits and vegetables. WHO recommends eating five portions of fruits and vegetables a day. Obesity increases the risk for colon cancer by 20%.”
If you look at it closely, preventing colon cancer is not a very complex task. It only requires discipline and determination, avoiding food contaminants, and making healthy lifestyle changes such as exercising, saying goodbye to physical inactivity, drinking water and eating fruits and vegetables. If it is also important to know what the symptoms are and to see a doctor if you are experiencing any symptoms. In the words of Dr. Avendaño, “Its plain and simple; nobody should die from colon cancer.
Colon cancer has five stages and the stage in which it is detected, depends on how it is treated. Treatment is easier in its initial stages.
53% is the percent by which the chances of getting colon cancer increase, if alcohol is consumed regularly.