By Sola Ogundipe
The death of legendary Brazilian soccer icon, Edson Arantes do Nascimento aka Pele on December 29 at 82 came as a rude shock to the world.
The globally accomplished sports figure had been at Albert Einstein Hospital in São Paulo, Brazil since the end of November, battling protracted colon cancer complications.
Pele who earned the nickname “The King” after he won his first FIFA World Cup with Brazil’s national team in 1958, eventually lost the battle to colon cancer.
Earlier in 2021, the football maestro had surgery to remove a tumour on the right side of his colon. He started chemotherapy before undergoing another surgery about four months later.
It soon became public knowledge that his cancer was getting worse and not responding to treatment. His doctors became worried when his organs started failing.
Colorectal or colon cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths globally. it develops when tumorous growths form in the large intestine.
The colon, or large intestine, is where the body draws out water and salt from solid waste. The waste then moves through the rectum and exits the body through the anus.
Signs and symptoms of colon cancer
Symptoms and signs may include diarrhea or constipation, changes in stool consistency, such as loose, narrow stools, blood in stools, abdominal pain, cramping, bloating or gas, continual urges to defecate despite passing stools, unexplained weight loss, etc. Colon cancer often causes no symptoms in the earliest stages, but symptoms may become more noticeable as the disease progresses.
The exact cause of colon cancer is not clear, but certain factors may increase the risk. Cancer happens as a result of changes in DNA within cells. Polyps are growths that form on the inside of the colon. Polyps are noncancerous, but cancer can begin with some types of polyps.
Cancerous cells may spread from malignant tumors to other parts of the body through the blood and lymph systems. These cancer cells can grow and invade healthy tissue nearby and throughout the body in a process called metastasis. The result is a more serious, less treatable condition.
The exact causes of colon cancer are unknown, but there are several potential risk factors.
Colon cancer can develop from precancerous polyps that grow in the large intestine. Some of these polyps may grow into malignant colon cancer if a surgeon does not remove them during the early stages of treatment.
Age is a significant risk factor for colon cancer. Most people who receive a diagnosis of colorectal cancer are over 50 years of age. However, it is becoming more common in people under 50.
People with inactive lifestyles, those with obesity, and individuals who use tobacco are most at risk. As the colon is part of the digestive system, diet and nutrition play central roles in its development. People who consume excessive amounts of saturated fats, red meat, alcohol, and processed meat have an increased risk.
Other risk factors for colon cancer include having a parent, sibling, or child with a history of colon or rectal cancer, and a personal history of colon, rectal, or ovarian cancer, among others. Race and ethnicity also play a role.
Treatment will depend on the type and stage of colon cancer. Age, overall health, and certain other characteristics influence the best treatment option.
There is no single treatment for colon cancer. The aim of treatment will be to remove cancer, prevent its spread, and reduce any uncomfortable symptoms. The stage of a person’s cancer will determine their treatment options and inform their outlook.
A new trend in colorectal cancer treatment is the development of “precision cancer medicines.” Not only are they easier to administer, but these agents also work better than chemotherapy by targeting specific molecular features (such as HER2, BRAF, and MSI). Recent discoveries are promising to improve the outcomes of those at risk for and currently battling this disease. This is especially heartening as colorectal cancer is no longer a disease exclusive to our older population; it is now on the rise in younger people as well.
Diagnosing colorectal cancer as early as possible is the key to better outcomes and longer life. The use of “circulating tumour DNA” is showing promise as a novel means of finding colorectal cancer earlier than previously possible. This up-and-coming technology identifies and measures microscopic fragments of tumour DNA from the blood and will help physicians get a step ahead of the disease.
More precise treatment
A new trend in colorectal cancer treatment is the development of “precision cancer medicines.” Not only are they easier to administer, but these agents also work better than chemotherapy by targeting specific molecular features (such as HER2, BRAF, and MSI). About 25% of people with advanced colorectal cancer have appropriate genetic targets for precision medicine or immunotherapy.
When chemotherapy is the best option, the good news is that medical advances are making the processes easier and shorter for many patients dealing with stage 3 colon cancer.
In recent years, new advancements in the early detection and treatment of colorectal cancer (also called colon cancer) show a promising future for patients and their families.
Generally, it’s recommended that screening for colon cancer begins at age 50 if you’re at average risk for colon cancer. If you have a family history of colon cancer or other signs that indicate a higher risk for it, you may require more frequent screenings from a younger age. Colon cancer screenings are important because they allow doctors to look inside your colon to see how things are doing. If the cancer is identified early, there’s a higher chance of stopping cancer growth before it becomes metastatic.
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