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There is a Cure for Colorectal Cancer

14 July 2009

By Nurul Halawati Azhari

Colorectal cancer, also known as bowel cancer, is the most common malignancy affecting Malaysian men, and the third most common that hits the opposite gender.

Among the different ethnic groups, the incidence is highest among the Chinese community.

With 655,000 deaths recorded worldwide each year, colorectal cancer is the third most common form of cancer and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the western world.

However, in most western countries, the number of cases had remained stable.

But in Asia, especially in countries such as Japan and Singapore the number of cases had been steadily increasing for the past 10 years.

Colorectal cancer has even replaced lung cancer as the most common cancer that affects men.

"Colon cancer is not so common before in Japan, Singapore or in Asian countries. One theory is the so-called westernisation of the diet.

"Look at the westernised diet in Japan. They are eating less and less fiber, drinking more alcohol and consuming more meat.

"I'm not saying that meat causes cancer. But sometimes the dietary habit could be a factor. Diet plays an important role. That could be an explanation why countries like Malaysia, Singapore and Japan are now facing the increasing number of cases for colon cancer", said Malaysian Oncological Society president Datuk Dr Mohamed Ibrahim Abdul Wahid.

Cancer is curable

"Cancer can be cured if it is detected early".

Doctors keep repeating this message all the time. But for cancer, patients sometimes need more than one type of treatment. Surgery may not be enough and patient may need additional therapies.

According to Dr Mohamed Ibrahim, cancer treatment is very complex and challenging. If colorectal cancer is found at its early stages and with little spread, it is curable.

"When it is detected at the later stages, then the chances of cure is less. The early and later stages have different methods of treatment. And with the different methods, we looked at how long the patient can survive within five years.

"We did not look at their life expectancy but look at how many patient can survive. Are they still doing well or not", said Dr Mohamed Ibrahim.

An oncologist would need to consider several things before deciding which treatment is the best for the patient. Surgery remains the primary treatment while chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy maybe recommended depending on the individual patient's staging and other medical factors.

Latest development in cancer treatment

Just as there are many different types of cancer, there are also many different ways to treat cancer.

While most people might have heard of one or two different forms of cancer treatment, doctors often use a combination of therapies not only to remove the tumor but also to ensure that the cancer does not return.

Consultant Medical Oncologist, University Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) Dr Christina Ng said the ability of doctors to identify specific cancer cells is an incredible breakthrough.

It enabled them to target the cells and deprive them of energy, thus preventing the further growth of the tumour.

This kind of treatment is a significant advancement from conventional therapy such as chemotherapy, which kills all cells that grow and develop.

"This is based on the understanding that cancer cells grow much faster than normal cells hence cancer cells would be destroyed first.

"However, other cells that also grow rapidly, such as the lining of the stomach, bone marrow, ovaries and hair follicles, are also affected"...

This article was first published in Bernama on 6. April 2009

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