In Europe, colon cancer is the second most frequently diagnosed cancer in both sexes. The most common symptoms range from change in bowel habits (alternating periods of constipation and diarrhea) and secondary fatigue to iron-loss anemia and obstructive symptoms in serious cases.

 

Who is most at risk

  • Men and women aged 50 or over (who are recommended a screening for the detection of hidden blood in the stool, and, if positive, also a colonoscopy);
  • Subjects with family histories of colon cancer or colon polyps;
  • Subjects with personal histories of inflammatory bowel disease (e.g. ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease);
  • Smokers;
  • Overweight or obese subjects;
  • Subjects who are not physically active;
  • Subjects who drink large amounts of alcohol, especially men;
  • Subjects who eat a large amount of red meat and especially processed meat (sausages, bacon, hot dogs, salami or other cured meats);
  • This proves that a healthy lifestyle in accordance with the rules of the World Research Fund can help prevent colon cancer.

 

How to reduce the risk

It is possible to adopt a correct primary prevention strategy. The purpose of primary prevention is to reduce the incidence of cancer by keeping risk factors under control so that to the probability of a cancer onset decreases.

Some of the primary prevention strategies can be targeted to the whole population (e.g. those related to proper nutrition or physical activity), while others to particular categories of people considered “high risk” (e.g. those with an especially high genetic risk or smokers).

Here are some rules for the primary prevention of colon cancer that can be adopted by the whole population:

  1. Be physically active: exercise for at least 30 minutes a day and for at least 5 days a week;
  2. Do not drink alcohol;
  3. Do not smoke;
  4. Limit the consumption of red meat (beef, pork and mutton). The World Research Fund suggests the consumption of 350-500g of (cooked) red meat per week;
  5. Avoid processed meat (sausages, bacon, hot dogs, salami and other cured meats);
  6. Maintain a healthy weight: avoid becoming overweight or obese;
  7. Adopt a diet richer in fruits, vegetables, beans and wholegrains;
  8. Participate in screening programs: periodical fecal occult blood testing

 

Medical oncological therapy

Though colon cancer’s incidence is high, we see a gradual reduction in mortality for both sexes. This is mainly due to the evolution of medical therapy. Chemotherapy is still the best cure that can lengthen the time to possible recurrence after radical surgery on the primitive tumor and, in selected cases, lead the patient to recovery.

In recurring and/or inoperable advanced disease, the new molecules such as the anti-EGFR (Epidermal Growth Factor) monoclonal antibodies, the anti-angiogenic drugs belonging to various classes such as the anti-VEGF (anti-Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor antibodies) and small TKI molecules (Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor), alone or in association with chemotherapy, can turn cancer into a chronic disease.

In case of advanced—but limited to the liver—disease, the same drugs are potentially able to make operable what initially was assessed as a non-operable disease and, in selected cases, to lead the patient to recovery.

These drugs can cause side effects of which some are specific of the drug category (for example neurotoxicity, skin toxicity, hematological toxicity, etc.), whilst others are common to all drug categories, for example nausea, diarrhea, constipation. For the latter, there are already recipes on the website especially designed aiming to limit their incidence.

Oncology and Cuisine, having considered the drugs used in the treatment of this pathology, wanted to highlight some side effects—sometimes neglected by the clinician himself—that can limit the regular feeding of the patient affecting his state of nutrition. The symptoms referred to are: dysgeusia (distortion of the sense of taste), iron-deficiency anemia, fatigue caused by magnesium deficiency and mucositis. These side effects can be alleviated and/or prevented by following easy-to-apply dietary advice found on the website. Said advice will complement the drug therapy recommended by your oncologist and never replace it.