When to get checked for colon cancer

The Medical City

Posted at Mar 29 2019 11:33 AM | Updated as of Mar 29 2019 07:25 PM

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The Medical City Colorectal Clinic

Colon cancer is one of those types of cancer that can be brought about by poor diet and lack of exercise. 

"It is a cancer arising from any part of the large intestine," said Dr. Josephine Contreras-Tolentino, a medical oncologist, chief of the Section of Medical Oncology at The Medical City, on what colon cancer is. She is also governing council member of the Philippine Society of Medical Oncology. 

While there are some unmodifiable risk factors like increasing age, Tolentino said there are more instances when colon cancer was brought about by the patient’s lifestyle. 

"In colorectal cancer, more than 80 percent of patients are usually aged 50 years old and above. Five to ten percent of colon cancer cases are hereditary. Moreover, if they have had a history of inflammatory bowel disease, or if the patient has a relative, like a sibling or parent, who has colon cancer, it puts that patient at a higher risk. The remaining percentage can be influenced by lifestyle, such as having a diet of low fiber, saturated fats, high consumption of red meat, and smoking or drinking alcohol," she said. 

Tolentino said that if you experience any of these - rectal bleeding, blood in the stool, abdominal pain, changes in bowel habits, unexplained weight loss or anemia - you may be exhibiting the symptoms of colon cancer. 

If you’re 50 and above, you must come in for a cancer screening. But if you are at a higher risk due to your medical history, or start to exhibit any of the symptoms, it’s best to have yourself checked. 

"These symptoms appear when the patient is in the advanced stage, and that’s why it’s important to have the screening as early as possible,” Tolentino said. 

Cancer screening and early diagnosis are important for the successful outcome of colon cancer treatment and recovery, which is why Dr. Tolentino urged those 50 and above, or those who are younger but might be at risk, to undergo a screening. 

"At The Medical City, we have screening packages that make the screening cheaper and more accessible to a wider range of patients," she said. 

The Medical City’s Cancer Institute was designed with the patient’s comfort and convenience in mind. 

"We also take a Multidisciplinary Team Approach—it’s a dedicated group of experts who collaborate with one another," Tolentino said. 

"Cancer in general isn’t treated anymore by just one doctor. Depending on the need of the patient, it’s usually the medical oncologist, the surgical oncologist, and the radiation oncologist, sometimes with palliative care, and a nutritionist. So with TMC, the patient need not go to individual doctors for the treatment. We set a meeting to convene all the doctors and meet the patient, together with relatives. So as physicians, we discuss the most appropriate, evidence-based treatments for that person, looking at the history, the patient, and the tumor profile. We also discuss everything in those meetings, from the costs, side effects, survival—everything."

A crucial factor in the survival of a cancer patient is being honest and upfront with their doctors, which Tolentino said is a must for her patients. "Because I can help you with some of your concerns, like if you’re concerned about the side effects, the pain, or the costs." 

If cost is a concern, the Philhealth Z Package for colorectal cancer surgery and treatment can be availed of at The Medical City. The Philippine Charity and Sweepstakes Office can also help in the expenses.

The Medical City approach in treating cancer has created multitude of ways to make a cancer patient’s road to survival and recovery comfortable and convenient. 

"The multidisciplinary approach makes the process less stressful for patients," Tolentino said. 

"It removes some barriers in the health care system, and the patient saves money, time and effort. We look at each patient as a partner, as a person. When a patient is handled not just by one doctor, but by those of different specialties helping each other, the survival rate is higher."

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