Colorectal Cancer

    Inspirational Survivor Testimonials

    Marlene Smith

    The Lions Club of Grand Cayman recently organised the 3rd Annual Delano Hislop 3 Day Journey for Life walk/run event. This event not only raises funds for men afflicted with prostate and colon cancers but also seeks to raise awareness of the disease.

    It was during a frank discussion with someone at the walk that I realised there are still individuals who are not aware that colorectal cancer affects an equal number of men and women. Many women, however, think of colorectal cancer (CRC) as a disease only affecting men and may be unaware of important information about screening and preventing CRC that could save their lives. Marlene Smith a cancer survivor shares her story... read more

    Samantha Widmer

    The Widmer’s, widely known as the "golfing" family of the Cayman Islands, are a very close knit family that spend a lot of time travelling and competing together. Twenty-four year old Samantha Widmer is known as one of Cayman’s most motivated and talented young women. She has won the prestigious title of Top Female Golfer in the Caribbean and was recently a Young Caymanian Leadership Award Finalist.

    Having encouraging and supporting parents, like Peter and Susan Widmer, was a source of strength for Samantha and her two younger brothers, Johnny and Jack. However, nothing could have prepared them for the shocking news… that their own mother had stage four colon cancer... read more

    Explanation

    The colon and rectum form the last intestine. The large intestine is that part of the digestive system that removes nutrients from food and stores waste until it is excreted from the body.

    Colorectal cancer occurs when a malignant tumour develops in the cells lining the large intestine. The colon and rectum form the large intestine.

    Who is at Risk?

    What are the risk factors for colorectal cancer?

    • Age: over 50 years (both men and women and risk increases with age)
    • Diet: High fat / Low fibre
    • Diabetes
    • Sedentary Lifestyle (Men and women who do not exercise at all)
    • Obesity
    • Tobacco usage
    • Personal Medical History: especially women with a history of breast, uterine or ovarian cancer
    • Family Medical History: parent, brother, sister or child with colorectal cancer
    • Predisposing medical conditions including:
      • Polyps which are non malignant growths on the inner wall of the colon and rectum and are often precursors to cancer.
      • Crohn’s Disease
      • Ulcerative colitis

    Signs and Symptoms

    What are the possible signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer?

    • Change in bowel habits
    • Stools that are narrower than usual
    • Chronic diarrhoea or constipation
    • Blood in the stool
    • Abdominal discomfort (gas pain, bloating, fullness, cramps)
    • Weight loss
    • Tiredness
    • Vomiting
      • It is important to remember that many other conditions can cause these symptoms, so consult with your doctor if you experience any of them.

    Prevention

    How can I reduce my risk of developing colorectal cancer?

    • Sensible low-fat, high fiber diet
    • Avoiding tobacco
    • Avoiding alcohol
    • Engaging in a physically active lifestyle
    • Following the screening guidelines for colorectal cancer prevention

    Studies indicate that eating a diet low in fat (no more than 20 percent of calories), high in fruits and vegetables (5-8 servings per day), and high in fiber (at least 25 grams per day) can reduce the risk of colon cancer.

    Screening tests increase the likelihood of detecting cancer in its earliest, most curable stage, and offer the best opportunity for diagnosing and removing polyps before they progress to colon cancer. These tests include digital rectal examination, a test for blood in the stool, and flexible sigmoidoscopy.

    Digital rectal examination should be performed annually starting at age 40. A test for hidden blood in the stool should be done every year starting at age 50. Sigmoidoscopy (examination of the lower part of the colon with a flexible lighted tube) should be done once every five years beginning at age 50.

    Screening & Detection

    Fecal Occult Blood Test is a simple test done at home and involves the collection of multiple stool samples. These are examined for signs of hidden blood. There is some special dietary restrictions to be followed for 3 days before and during the test. It is important to follow these to increase the accuracy of this test.

    What tests are used for screening and detection of colorectal cancer?

    • Faecal Occult Blood Test:
      • Recommended annually after age 50.
      • Available in Cayman
    • Flexible Sigmoidoscopy:
      • This involves the insertion of a thin flexible tube with a small camera at the end of it into the rectum to examine the lower portion of the colon for polyps and other abnormalities. Special bowel cleansing preparation is required.
      • Recommended every 5 years starting at age 50.
      • Available in Cayman
    • Colonoscopy:
      • This is similar to a flexible sigmoidoscopy except that the entire colon is examined. The preparation is similar and sedation is required in most cases.
      • Recommended every 10 years starting at age 50.
      • Available in Cayman
    • Double Contrast Barium Enema (DCBE):
      • This is a series of xrays of the colon and rectum. Prior to the xrays being taken a barium enema is administered and air is pumped into the rectum. The combination of the two outline the colon and rectum for the x-ray.
      • Recommended every 5 to 10 years after age 50
      • Available in Cayman

    How is colorectal cancer diagnosed?

    The diagnosis of colorectal cancer is confirmed by performing a biopsy.

    Treatment Options

    Depends on the location and size of the tumor, the stage of the cancer, age and health and can include surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

    Treatment options for colorectal cancer:

    • Surgery
      • which involves the removal of the tumour and usually a part of the adjoining healthy colon and nearby lymph nodes.The healthy portions of the intestine are then rejoined. If they cannot be rejoined the doctor performs a COLOSTOMY which involves a surgical opening (STOMA) through the abdomen into the colon. This provides a new path for waste to leave the body and a special bag is worn to collect waste material.
    • Chemotherapy
    • Radiation Therapy
    • Biological Therapy
    • Other
      • Surgery to remove cancerous tissue is the most common mode of treatment for colon cancer. In some patients, radiotherapy or chemotherapy may also be used.  We will also gladly collaborate with each patient’s private physician.