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Colon Cancer – Why Prevention Is So Important

Colon cancer is one of the most common tumor diseases in Germany. The Robert Koch Institute speaks of around 60,000 people each year who are directly affected. At the same time, studies suggest that preventive examinations in this area are still far too little noticed. The colonoscopy is one of the recognized most effective cancer screening examinations. According to the German Cancer Research Center, it drastically lowers the risk of developing colon cancer or dying.

This can also be confirmed by surgeon Frank Feyser, chief physician at the clinic for general and visceral surgery at the RHÖN-KLINIKUM campus in Bad Neustadt: “Colon cancer is a life-threatening disease. If it is diagnosed, it will lead to death without adequate therapy, ”he says in an interview with the RHÖN health blog.

At the same time, he vehemently promotes regular preventive examinations. Especially for all those people whose families have already developed colon cancer: “For the vast majority of patients, the feedback after such an examination is positive,” says the expert.

In those cases in which a tumor is diagnosed, Frank Feyser and an interdisciplinary team of experts at the RHÖN-KLINIKUM Campus Bad Neustadt offer holistic cancer therapy, which is promising in many cases: “Complete healing is absolutely realistic!”

In the interview, the surgeon talks about the insidiousness of colon cancer, therapeutic options – and how the disease can be prevented in everyday life.

Mr. Feyser, the diagnosis of cancer still sounds like a death sentence to many people. Right?

No! As experts in colorectal cancer, we can say very clearly:

The chances of a cure for tumors whose stage is not very advanced are now excellent. Especially in comparison to other types of cancer.

What are the characteristics of colon cancer?

It is a common disease that the affected person does not notice for a long time. That is the tricky thing. And for this reason, colon cancer screening is extremely useful. Because they allow problems to be recognized at an early stage – and can be treated accordingly. It can also be used to detect so-called small intestinal polyps – and also to remove them directly. This makes sense because colon cancer can develop from it.

When should you go to preventive care?

Regularly from a certain age, for example from 50 years of age. In my experience, however, very few people actively take care of it.

How do you explain that?

It is certainly also due to the fact that the intestines have something to do with excretions. And of course, many people do not like to deal with such topics, which are unfortunately still taboo. And talking about it is also rather uncomfortable for many.

This is problematic in that many cancers, and colon cancer in particular, do not show early symptoms. Many people only notice the disease when it is well advanced.

Does colorectal cancer actually mainly occur after the age of 50?

The likelihood of developing colon cancer as a younger person is low. However, we have already treated patients under 30. In such cases, the hereditary component often plays a role. In other words: If close relatives have developed colon cancer, I urgently recommend a preventive check-up!

They say that colon cancer remains asymptomatic for a long time. How can you still recognize the first signs?

It often manifests itself in blood deposits or mucus that are mixed in with the stool. Sometimes there are stool irregularities, combined with abdominal cramps, constipation or diarrhea. It is not uncommon for people to notice a drop in performance, weight loss, or what is known as tumor cachexia, which leads to emaciation and emaciation of those affected. This often marks an advanced tumor disease. Anemia can also be the result of progressive colon cancer.

What therapies can modern medicine offer here?

As a rule, of course, we pursue the healing of the disease. The diagnosis is often made after a preventive examination by means of a colonoscopy, which we also call a colonoscopy. A plant is then often discovered here, from which a sample is taken for tissue examination.
It is really important that we do not stop at this colonoscopy, but instead carry out additional additional examinations: There are, for example, the computed tomography of the abdomen and lungs. The aim is to be able to detect any colonization of the cancer, for example in the liver or lungs. If it is so-called rectal cancer, we also carry out an endoscopic ultrasound and an MRI examination. The aim of all these investigations is to take stock. Based on the information obtained, we can then develop an adequate therapy concept that is perfectly tailored to the respective person.

If it is not the rectal cancer mentioned, what can it be?

We may find polyps in the colon or rectum. Alternatively, inflammation of the intestinal wall can also appear similar to a tumor in endoscopy.
For example, if there is colon cancer that has not spread, an operation is urgently recommended. We now carry out such interventions 90 percent minimally invasive, which means for the patient: less pain, smaller scars, less adhesions. Our goal is to surgically remove the tumor with a certain safety margin – and also the corresponding lymphatic drainage.

Can patients get completely healthy again?

Complete healing is absolutely realistic and, in many cases, quite possible. From the beginning, the further life expectancy depends on the stage of the tumor. Here, too, it becomes clear how useful regular preventive care is.

Depending on the tissue findings of the surgical preparation, we may recommend chemotherapy after the operation. It is somewhat different and more complicated with the aforementioned rectal cancer, after the operation of which in some cases a temporary, and rarely a permanent, artificial anus is unavoidable. Sometimes we also recommend radiation before the operation to reduce the size of the tumor and make it easier to operate.

Sounds like teamwork …

Exactly. As surgeons, we do not work alone in this area, but in an interdisciplinary manner, i.e. with the involvement of a wide range of specialist departments. Among others, gastroenterology, pathology, oncology, radiation therapy and radiology are involved. And sometimes the palliative care specialists too – if the chances of recovery for those affected are unfortunately no longer good. We all meet at regular intervals in our interdisciplinary “tumor conference”. And then all current cases are discussed in detail.

Is there any other way of preventing colon cancer – besides the sensible preventive medical check-up?

In the case of a genetic predisposition, I urgently advise you not to have a check-up after you turn 50, but rather much earlier. The main risk factors that promote the development of colon cancer are alcohol consumption and smoking. A lack of exercise can also be dangerous. A healthy and balanced diet can prevent illness. Research shows that excessive consumption of red meat, mainly beef, increases the risk of colon cancer. In other words: regular exercise and a healthy diet can actively prevent colon cancer and, of course, other diseases.

Your expert for colon cancer:
Frank Feyser
Chief physician of the clinic for general and visceral surgery at the RHÖN-Klinikum Bad Neustadt campus

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