Colorectal cancer (CRC) otherwise known as bowel cancer, colon cancer or rectal cancer, is any cancer of the colon and rectum. It is considered by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the commonest cancers worldwide. In Nigeria, CRC is about the 7th commonest cancer according to Globalcan with an incidence of 3.8 cases per 100,000 in 2002. A recent study however considered CRC as the 4th commonest in Nigeria coming after breast cancer, cervical cancer and prostate cancer. It was formerly considered a disease of the elderly but recently it is being seen commonly in individuals below the age of 50 years.
The cause of this scourge is usually an interplay between one’s genetic makeup (non-modifiable) and the environment (modifiable) and this probably explains why some individuals develop the disease and others do not. However, several risk factors have been identified- a risk factor is an entity that increases a person’s chance of developing a disease.
The risk factors for colorectal cancer can be classified into non-modifiable and modifiable risk factors. Non-modifiable risk factors refer to those risk factors that cannot be changed while modifiable risk factors refer to those risk factors that measures can be taken to change them.
Non -modifiable risk factors include:
Increasing age- the older you are the higher the risk.
Family history of colorectal cancer.
Inflammatory bowel disease.
Modifiable risk factors include:
Diet high in animal protein.
Diet high in saturated fats.
Diet low in dietary fiber.
Obesity or overweight.
Sedentary lifestyle (being physically inactive).
The possible symptoms of colorectal cancer are:
Blood in stool.
(Chronic) Diarrhea – passage of watery stool
A feeling that the bowel does not empty properly after a bowel motion.
A feeling of fullness in the abdomen.
Unintentional weight loss