Pele’s colon cancer worsens; all you want to know about colorectal cancer

Football legend Pele’s cancer has worsened and he might have to extend his stay in Albert Einstein hospital over Christmas as he is under elevated care related to kidney and heart complications. Here’s all you want to know about colon cancer. Brazilian soccer legend Pele, 82, will spend his Christmas in the hospital as his colon cancer has worsened and led to kidney and heart complications. He got a tumour from his colon removed in September last year and has been on medication. “Our Christmas at home has been suspended,” Pele’s daughter Kely Nascimento confirmed on Instagram, adding, “we decided with the doctors that, for various reasons, it would be better for us to stay here with all the care that this new family at Einstein gives us. We will even make some caipirinhas (no kidding). We love you and we will give up an update next week,” she added. (Also read: Warning signs your body pain is associated with cancer)

What is colon cancer

“Colon cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in your colon (large intestine) or rectum. Colon and rectum are the organs that comprise the lower section of your digestive system. Colon cancer is also known as colorectal cancer,” says Dr Sunny Jain, HOD and Sr. Consultant Oncology, Marengo QRG Hospital Faridabad.

Symptoms of colon cancer

Dr Jain says patients with colon cancer may present with symptoms such as a persistent change in bowel habits including diarrhoea or constipation or a change in the consistency of stool.

Here are other symptoms:

– Rectal bleeding or blood in stool

– Lasting abdominal trouble like cramps, gas or pain.

– There could be a feeling that your bowel doesn’t drain out thoroughly

– Weakness or fatigue and unexplained weight reduction etc.

“Many people with colon cancer do not show symptoms in the early stages of the disease. Once symptoms appear, these may be varied depending on the cancer’s size and location in your large intestine. If colon cancer is detected in early stages, it can be effectively cured. However, in its later stages, it may turn fatal for the patients. If not identified or left untreated, cancer may lead to blockage of the colon, bowel obstruction and spread to other tissues and organs of the body,” says Dr Jain.

Risk factors for colon cancer

Colon cancer can be identified at any age however, a majority of people with colon cancer are older than 50.

“People with certain conditions such as personal history of colorectal cancer or polyps, chronic inflammatory disease of the colon like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease (an inflammatory bowel disease), family history of colon cancer, diabetes or insulin resistance, having diets low in fibre and high in fat and calories, high in red meat and processed meat, sedentary lifestyle, obesity, smoking and heavy use of alcohol are more susceptible to colon cancer in the future,” says Dr Jain.

“Some gene mutations passed through generations of your family can raise colon cancer risk significantly. The most commonly seen inherited syndromes increasing colon cancer risk are familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and Lynch syndrome which is also known as hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC). Radiation therapy directed at the abdomen to treat previous cancers may raise the risk of colon cancer,” says the expert.


For the diagnosis of the disease, the patient may be recommended to undergo colonoscopy.

“In Colonoscopy, a long, flexible and slender tube attached to a video camera is used to view the entire colon and rectum. On finding any suspicious areas, doctors may pass surgical tools through the tube to take tissue samples (biopsies) for analysis and remove polyps. Blood tests are done for clues about your overall health, such as kidney and liver function tests, tumor markers like S CEA. Staging tests may also be advised such as imaging procedures such as abdominal, pelvic and chest CT scans, whole Body PET CT,” says Dr Jain.


Dr Jain says surgery is considered as the most common treatment for colon cancer.

– Partial colectomy or Hemicolectomy: This is also known as colon resection surgery. During this surgery, surgeons remove the section of your colon that has tumour and some surrounding healthy tissue. Then healthy colon sections are reconnected in a procedure called anastomosis.

– Colectomy with permanent colostomy: In this, surgeons remove the section of your colon containing a tumour. In this surgery, however, healthy colon sections can’t be connected. Here a colostomy is done. In a colostomy, the patient’s bowel is moved to an opening in his/her abdominal wall so poop is stored in a bag.

– Polypectomy: During this surgery, the surgeon removes cancerous polyps.

– Radiofrequency ablation: In this procedure, heat is used to destroy cancer cells. Here surgery with adjuvant therapy can be combined by doctors. This cancer treatment is done before or after surgery. They may also use these treatments for colon cancer that has spread or come back.

Treatments may include:

Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy drugs may be prescribed to shrink tumours and ease colon cancer symptoms.

Targeted therapy: Through this treatment, doctors target the genes, proteins and tissues that help colon cancer cells grow and multiply. Doctors often use a kind of targeted therapy known as monoclonal antibody therapy. In this therapy, lab-created antibodies are used to target cancer cells or cells that help cancer cells grow. The antibodies help kill the cancer cells.

Prevention of colon cancer

Dr Jain says to detect this disease at an early stage, people over 45 years of age are advised to undergo colon cancer screening. He says people with a family history of colon cancer should also consider screening sooner.

Lifestyle changes to avoid colon cancer

Lifestyle modifications in everyday life should be followed to lower the risk of colon cancer:

· Incorporate a variety of fresh fruits, green leafy vegetables and whole grains as fruits, green leafy vegetables and whole grains are high in vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants, which may play a key role in preventing cancer.

· Avoid or limit the amount of alcohol you have.

· Say no to smoking.

· Exercise daily for at least 30 minutes. Remember to consult your doctor before starting exercise.

· Try to maintain your weight by combining a well-balanced diet and daily exercise. If you need to lose weight, talk to your doctor about healthy ways to reduce weight slowly by increasing the amount of exercise and cutting off the number of calories you have.

· For people with a high risk, some medications may also be recommended to lower the risk of precancerous polyps or colon cancer.

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