Getting to the bottom of your lower intestines… genetically. Nipping bowel cancer in the bud with genetic screening

Colorectal cancer affects the tail-end of the gastrointestinal system. In the early stages, what appear to be harmless tissue growths may occur. But if left untreated for too long, these growths can turn into cancer. However, the transformation of these cells tends to happen gradually. If the process can be caught in the early stages, treatment will be much easier. This places regular screening at the heart of successful treatment for this type of cancer.

            Disturbingly, there is a growing trend for colorectal cancer patients to be younger and younger as time goes by. Diagnoses of colorectal cancer for under-50s have increased two-fold in the past three decades, owing to the shift towards a lifestyle that involves more haste and stress. De-stressing by smoking only makes it worse, as does the meat and fat rich diet that is commonplace these days. Polluted living environments and sustained contact with various chemicals play a part too. All of these factors contribute to cancer.

This is exacerbated by the fact that young people tend to pay less attention to their health than those of more advanced years. They tend to speed past the many signs that may occur, such as in the case of a male patient in his early thirties. He noticed that his stools were bloody, but since he could not feel any pain, he ignored the issue and did not bother to seek medical attention. As he approached his forties, the symptoms became more and more demanding of attention, so when he did go for a check-up, the cancer was already in the late stage.
At present, it is recommended that regular screening for colorectal cancer should commence when you reach the age of 45. There are many ways to conduct the screening, from fecal blood stool tests, a sigmoidoscopy, to a colonoscopy. You can also choose to undergo stomach and upper intestine endoscopic check-ups, which can be examined at the same time as the colonoscopy, so as to minimize the number of uncomfortable hospital visits. This will be followed by screenings at regular intervals, as determined by your physician. If anything unusual is found, the physician will order further tests to be conducted to the get the most accurate and timely diagnosis possible.

In case you are worrying about COVID-19 and social distancing, please rest assured.  We are taking all necessary precautions and more to ensure that the hospital is safe to visit. All patients are screened for COVID-19 prior to all procedures, including colonoscopy, for no extra charge. Staff are also regularly screened and wear protective clothing at all times. In fact, preventive medicine is even more important in the time of pandemic as cancer treatment might compromise your immune system, making you more susceptible to the infection. As the saying go, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of care.

            At Bumrungrad hospital, not only do we have top specialists in the field of colorectal cancer to care for you, we also place a great deal of importance on preventative medicine. This is why we have established the Preventive Genomics and Family Check-up Center. Here, we take special care of those with a family history of hereditary diseases and help to build a defense strategy for them and their families. 

The genetic screening is done by analyzing the 61 genes known to be related to inherited cancer, such as colon cancer, breast cancer, or prostate cancer. The sample collection couldn’t be easier; simply rub the interior of your cheeks with a cotton swab. The physician will have the swabs sent for analysis in our gene lab, which will take about one month until the results are ready. The information gained from this gene analysis will allow the physician to work together with you in preemptively making the changes necessary in your life to avoid cancer in the first place. It is truly a major advance.

Aside from screenings that should be done annually, there are a few other things that you can do to give your gene expression the best chance of being cancer free; giving up smoking, regularly exercising for at least 150 minutes per week, avoiding processed meat, eating more fruit and vegetables, reducing or giving up alcohol altogether. All of these things can help to reduce the risk of cancer, so long as you make them a part of your lifestyle. It is never too late to choose a healthy life.
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