Colorectal cancer projected to rise

Colorectal cancer may soon become the most common cancer in Barbados, says president of the Barbados Cancer Society (BCS) Professor R. David Rosin.

With 230 detected cases per year, he is projecting an increase, highlighting a major need for early detection screenings among the populace.

“In the very near future, I think it will be the most common cancer in Barbados. It is the second most common cancer in the world actually and increasing worldwide probably due to a lack of high-fibre diets,” he said.

Rosin was speaking with the DAILY NATION on Sunday in commemoration of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month which is celebrated throughout March.

Colorectal cancer is identified as a growth of cells that form in the lower end of the digestive tract. The main symptoms are a change in bowel habits, blood in the stool or a loss of weight. Rosin explained that these symptoms may also vary depending on the size and location of the growth along the colon.

“It depends where the cancer is because the colon is a long organ and sometimes people are found to be anaemic. It’s also a loss of weight, so a change of bowel habit, that’s important as people’s stool changes from their normal type to perhaps diarrhoea or perhaps constipation. If that becomes a bit consistent, then you should see your doctor immediately,” he said, adding early detection was crucial to a less aggressive treatment.

Last year the BCS conducted a number of trials in screening for prostate cancer using DNA genomics with the help of Wren Laboratories and Yale University. They screened several men of African descent, as the cancer is found to be more aggressive in that group.

“We decided to do a similar trial which was larger for colorectal cancer, and that trial finished in November last year. The results should be out sometime this month. We can’t break the code until everybody is analysed so that is where we stand with the colorectal trials.

“I’ve been in touch with the health ministry and they are very keen to do an islandwide screening programme for colon cancer. Due to the financial aspect, the test they will use is what is called the FIT (Faecal Immunochemical) test,” he said.

FIT is used as a screening for colon cancer testing for hidden blood in the stool which can be an early sign of colorectal cancer.

“Unfortunately it is very non-specific,” Rosin said. “There are at least five or six different causes for having blood in your stool. So although it can be useful, it is not very specific or sensitive so we are [relying] on the DNA test, which is in early trials, that is 94 per cent sensitive.”

The BCS also has plans for a new clinic to test gynaecological cancers in women.

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