What are the risk factors for colorectal cancer?

  • Personal history of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps
  • A strong family history of the disease
  • Inherited forms of colorectal polyps or cancer e.g. Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP)
  • Previous Colorectal, ovarian, endometrial or breast cancer
  • Predisposing chronic digestive condition such as inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis)
  • Age > 50
  • Poor diet (increased fat, red meat and reduced fibre)
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Exposure to radiation

What are the signs & symptoms of colorectal cancer?

Often asymptomatic; this is why screening for colorectal cancer is so important. When symptoms occur, they include:-
•    New onset of abdominal pain
•    Bleeding from the rectum
•    Blood in or on the stool
•    A change in stool caliber or shape
•    A change in typical bowel habits, constipation, diarrhea
•    Weakness, anemia, weight loss, palpable mass, obstruction
•    Jaundice.

How is colorectal cancer diagnosed?

Diagnosis is through symptoms, screening and investigations. Early diagnosis results in better prognosis.

  • Digital Rectal Exam (DRE); most common exam
  • Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT)
  • Sigmoidoscopy and/or Colonoscopy
  • Carcinogenic Embryonic Antigen (CEA)
  • Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT)
  • X-ray and abdominal CT scan/ultrasound
  • Laboratory: Complete Blood Count, urinalysis, liver function tests

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