Colorectal cancer (CRC), also known as bowel cancer, colon cancer, or rectal cancer, is the development of cancer from the colon or rectum (parts of the large intestine). It is one of the most common cancers in the world and is likely developed after the age of fifty. Colorectal cancer in Pakistan is also pretty high.
Unfortunately, its incidence in Pakistan is also rapidly increasing.
We sat down with Dr. Rao Khalid, one of the top colorectal and laparoscopic surgeons in Pakistan, with 26 years of experience to give his expert advice on colorectal cancer.
Q.1. What is the status of colorectal cancer in Pakistan?
Well, there is no national database that can tell us how common colorectal cancer is in Pakistan. But there are some papers that have been published that tell us that colorectal cancer is indeed very common in Pakistan as well.
And I personally believe that there is quite a high incidence of colorectal cancer in Pakistan.
Q.2. What is the screening process for colorectal cancer in Pakistan?
Well, England came up with FOBT (fecal occult blood test) in the early 2000s which is a fecal test that is used to determine hidden blood in the stool sample. And then in the coming years, another test was developed, FIT. FIT (fecal immunochemical test) is used to detect colon cancer. But, unfortunately, these tests are not possible in Pakistan, since we don’t have an integrated national health system.
So, I would suggest people of Pakistan, if they have warning signs, to get a colonoscopy and flexible sigmoidoscopy done so that early detection of cancer can be done.
Q.3. How social norms affect the treatment of colorectal cancer?
We do know that the social structure of Pakistan is largely influenced by traditions and religion. But I don’t think religion supports the misconception that one shouldn’t get their private regions examined if there could be a possible chance of cancer.
We also cannot detect colorectal cancer unless proper examination is done. So, we need to educate our society to let go of such social taboos and prioritise health.
Q.4. How to refrain from quacks for colon cancer?
I see many people treating colorectal diseases or cancer with “taweez” or spiritual charms and it is quite embarrassing. Since colorectal is a physical disease, it must be treated by a doctor who is a trained professional.
Q.5. What are the symptoms of colorectal cancer?
Well, one of the major warning signs of colorectal cancer is rectal bleeding or blood in the stool. That blood can be both reddish or blackish.
The second major symptom is a change in bowel habits, including diarrhoea or constipation or a change in the consistency of your stool.
Other includes, rapid weight loss, loss of appetite, and lethargy. If these symptoms persist for more than 6 weeks, then you should definitely consult a colorectal surgeon.
To learn about the best treatment option available for colorectal cancer, you can watch his full interview.