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European Day to Fight Bowel Cancer

Dr. Ana Rita Herculano
Gastroenterologist

Colorectal cancer (or colon and rectal cancer or bowel cancer) is a highly prevalent type of cancer that can be fatal. In Portugal, it is the second most frequent in women after breast cancer and the second most frequent in men after prostate cancer, ranking first in terms of mortality.

It can affect the colon or rectum (collectively known as the large intestine). Despite the biological similarity between colon and rectal tumors, the different anatomical location may dictate differences in the type of treatment needed. Its early diagnosis can save your life and can even be prevented if the polyps that give rise to it are removed before they become malignant.

Keep these tips with you:

There are 3 factors that increase your risk of colon cancer: being overweight, binge drinking and smoking

But there are also 2 factors that reduce it: regular physical activity and a diet high enough in fibre.

Colonoscopy, performed by a specialist in Gastroenterology, is assumed to be preferred method for screening this cancer and, despite not being free from complications, it should be performed as early as possible from 45 years of age or even rather, according to its symptoms and risk factors. Once known for a very complicated and painful procedure, it has since been simplified, with easier colon cleansing preparations carried out, and that is performed with deep sedation (by an anaesthesiologist).

Specifically for screening small bowel cancer, there is now also videocapsule enteroscopy, a non-invasive procedure that uses a small wireless camera to acquire photographs of the digestive tract.

This chamber is housed in a capsule the size of a pill that the patient swallows.

During its journey through the digestive tract, the capsule takes several photographs that are transmitted to a recorder that the patient takes with him during the procedure, which allows viewing the images in real time.

The patient can go about their normal routines and return to the endoscopy service at the end of the day to download the images using specific, high quality software. The single-use capsule is eliminated in the faeces one to two days later.

 

Since the introduction of the first capsule endoscopy in 2000, it has been an essential procedure in the investigation and diagnosis of small bowel diseases, in places that essential endoscopic examinations (high endoscopy and colonoscopy) do not reach.

As a simple and comfortable procedure for the patient, it is an essential procedure that is performed on a large scale. It should not be used as a first-line examination or intended to replace conventional endoscopic exams. It has become, however, due to the difficulty of accessing the entire small intestine, as the first-line procedure for the investigation of obscure digestive haemorrhage, an important method of evaluation for Crohn's disease, small bowel tumours and polyposis surveillance relatives.

This examination is currently available at Hospital Particular do Algarve | Gambelas - Faro and at the Hospital Particular da Madeira – Funchal

3rd November 2021

3, November 2021