About colon cancer

In kenya, cancer ranks 3rd as a cause of death after infectious diseases and cardiovascular disease. It causes 7% of the total national mortality each year.

This gives our health care system a mouthful as we have to deal with both communicable and non communicable diseases (double burden of disease). With cancer being the leading cause of death worldwide,accounting for approximately 7.6 million deaths annually, it is only necessary to start dealing with the cancer menace sooner other than later. This is in light of the fact that the cancer mortality rate is predicted to continue to rise with an estimate of 13.1 million people worldwide affected in 2030.

Colon cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world. In kenya, it constitutes 40-50 % of all cancers of the large intestine with the mean age of diagnosis being about 50 years. It is highly curable, particularly if caught early and when localized within the intestine. With time, like most cancers it spreads and hence makes cure more difficult.

Risk factors would include a personal history of colon or any other cancer, Tobacco use, irritable bowel disease, family history of ovarian, endometrial or breast cancer among others.

Early diagnosis and treatment is possible. This is achieved by screening the at risk patients. The screening test is inexpensive and infrequent, to be done after every 3 years. This is the fecal occult blood test (FOBT ) . It is the proper screening test for the at risk population. It is basic stool test that checks for blood that is invisible to the naked eye but can be seen on microscopy. If the stool test is positive then further tests will be recommended and advisable.

The early features of colon cancer are quite nonspecific. They include discomfort, weight loss, changes in bowel habits and tiredness. This can indicate any other gastrointestinal disorder and are not indicative for colon cancer. However the need to seek medical advise cannot be overlooked and a high index of suspicion is required on the side of health professionals for an early diagnosis to be achieved.

Reference; NATIONAL GUIDELINES FOR CANCER MANAGEMENT KENYA.

By Julian Wanjira Wachira

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