Materia Medica Malaysiana

September 2, 2007

The number one ‘killer’ cancer among men

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 10:32 am

NST: KOTA KINABALU: Colon cancer is the number one “killer” cancer among men, and number three among women.
Late diagnosis, the lack of trained personnel to carry out the procedure used to detect colon cancer, and cost are among the factors that contribute to the death toll.
Malaysian Society of Gastroenterology and Hepatology president Dr Ryan Ponnudurai said there were only a handful of endoscopists in the country who could screen for illnesses, including colon cancer, through colonoscopy.
Colonoscopy is the examination of the large intestine with an endoscope — a flexible tube, with a light and camera attached to it, used to examine the hollow organs.
Often it has an attachment to snip a small sample from the inside of the organ.
“In some countries, everyone above the age of 50 is screened for colon cancer,” Dr Ponnudurai said at the end of the GUT2007 meeting, an annual scientific gathering organised by the society.
“Whether or not we can screen all Malaysians depends on issues like cost and expertise. But we do need to get the idea of regular screening out into the general population.
“Weight loss, changes in bowel habits and blood in the stool are the three main symptoms which we call red flags of colon cancer.
“Anyone with these symptoms should go for an examination, which usually ends with a colonoscopy to make sure there is no tumour.”
This year’s meeting incorporated the seventh International Advanced Endoscopy Workshop and the second Asia-Pacific Endoscopic Ultrasound Club.
More than 500 people, including experts from Canada, France, Japan and the United States, attended the meeting where more than 50 endoscopy procedures were beamed live from Kuala Lumpur.
“If a patient tells me he has a first-degree relative — mother, father or uncle — with a history of colon cancer, that patient should have a colonoscopy 10 years before the age of diagnosis,” said Dr Ponnudurai.
“That means if the patient’s father had colon cancer at 60, the patient should have a colonoscopy at 50.
“It is a simple procedure, done in hospital under light sedation in 10 minutes.
“The most unpleasant part is probably drinking the preparation to clean out your bowel the night before.”
He is optimistic that eventually, colon cancer screening for everyone will become part of the country’s health care system.
“We are trying to set up a registry of colon cancer deaths. With that, we will have the evidence of how big a killer it is, and with that, we could get the funding for colon cancer screening.
“Although prostate cancer is more common, colon cancer has a higher death rate. It is an aggressive tumour, and not a pleasant way of dying.”
On the meeting, he said: “There has been a great exchange of ideas. We spoke about colon cancer screening, stomach cancer and early detection of polyps that can grow into cancer.
“Many of the participants who came to share their knowledge were impressed with the cases discussed. It has been a learning experience for all.”

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