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How to identify early signs of colorectal cancer? There are 5 points to note

Peter, a middle-aged software engineer, seemed to live his life in fast-forward between relentless coding and pressing deadlines. He was constantly glued to the endless scripts on his screen, rarely stepping away from the comfort of his swivel chair.

His dietary habits and lifestyle mirrored that of a typical urban professional: fast food rich in fats and sugars but low in fiber was almost a staple at every meal, and exercise was virtually non-existent. Over time, his weight crept up silently, and his waistline gradually expanded. At first, Peter didn't pay much attention to the subtle physiological changes. He often felt tired, attributing it to the normal response to long hours of work. But gradually, he started noticing changes in his bowel habits and occasional discomfort in his abdomen. 

Initially, he thought it was just temporary indigestion, but then, he began to realize that something wasn't quite right in the restroom. He noticed a few drops of bright red blood on the toilet paper, which brought a twinge of anxiety. This anxiety grew as his weight loss became an unexplained phenomenon. Despite not cutting back on his diet, he was losing weight.

A thought kept hovering in his mind; perhaps, it was time to see a doctor. But he shelved the idea, always convincing himself he was too busy, and deep down, he was scared of the truth. Finally, a severe bout of abdominal pain left him with no more excuses. Insisting upon by his family, Peter was forced to go to the hospital. After a series of examinations, the doctor delivered a diagnosis—early-stage colorectal cancer. The harsh reality hit him like a sledgehammer; all his neglect and procrastination suddenly turned into deep regret and fear.

Colorectal cancer is medically defined as a malignant tumor originating from the inner lining of the colon or rectum. Most colorectal cancers begin as adenomatous polyps on the mucous membrane, which can potentially develop into cancer. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer worldwide.

The early symptoms of colorectal cancer may be subtle, but some common signs include:

1. Changes in bowel habits, such as constipation or diarrhea

2. Changes in stool caliber (e.g., narrower stools)

3. Persistent abdominal pain or discomfort

4. Blood in the stool or passing black stools

5. Unexplained weight loss and fatigue According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), about 20% of patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer present symptoms in the early stages.

The impact of colorectal cancer on individuals can be profound, encompassing both physical health and psychosocial stress. Advanced colorectal cancer can lead to intestinal obstruction, and perforation, and may metastasize to the liver and other organs. Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths among both men and women in the United States, as per cancer statistics.

Common causes of colorectal cancer include:

1. Increasing age (risk increases after age 50)

2. Family history or genetic predisposition

3. High-fat and low-fiber diet

4. Obesity and lack of exercise

5. Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption Dietary factors may account for about 70% of colorectal cancer cases worldwide, as reported by the World Health Organization.

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