Filipinos may have a genetic risk of developing colon cancer, said Dr. Noel Sunico-Rodriguez Fajardo, a Filipino-American doctor whose defense is helping fight colon cancer.
Fajardo, a gastroenterologist based in Las Vegas, had his specialization in internal medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. He received a subspecialty training in gastroenterology, hepatology and GI motility at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
A decade ago, he founded Las Vegas Gastroenterology, a clinic that serves the needs of the Fil-Am community in Las Vegas.
"Our clinic is unique, since we have access to a large
Filipino-American population. There are phenotypic characteristics of people with cancer compared to other races. There is a different phenotype among Filipinos, "said Fajardo.
A genotype is the set of genes in the DNA responsible for a particular trait. The phenotype is the physical expression or characteristics of that trait.
Fajardo said Filipinos also have younger colon cancer, between 20 and 30 years.
Classical formation of colon cancer begins with polyps. But with Filipino patients, colon cancer appears out of nowhere, he said.
Polyps are abnormal tissue growths that are often found in the colon. What doctors look for during a colonoscopy are precancerous polyps so they can be removed before they turn into cancer.
The formation of polyps is where colon cancer begins: one in three is precancerous, he said, so patients who go directly to develop colon cancer are very unusual. Filipinos tend to be that kind of patient.
"So, the doctors in my clinic do not know if it is a genetic disorder or if there is a gene present in our gene pool, nagkakaroon tayo ng cancer bigla sa colon, as a genetic risk that has not yet been discovered," said Fajardo .
It could not be in the diet, said Fajardo, since Fil-Ams follows the American diet.
"We're talking about healthy Filipino men, mostly young people who get cancer, they experience some bleeding or weight loss, but you do not think it's cancer right away, you can assume they're hemorrhoids, but when you look inside, you see cancer," He said.
Fajardo said that for a decade, his clinic has treated thousands of Fil-Am patients. His colleagues called his attention: "There is something different in your patient population that should be examined."
A formal study will be published. "We have not examined all the data, so everything remains anecdotal," he said.
People, he said, need to learn the ABC of colon cancer:
Abdominal pain or swelling that can not explain; Bleeding (most are hemorrhoids, however); and change in bowel movements.
"The colon is a tube, a wastebasket, stool storage. "If you have trouble moving your bowels, get tested," he said.
A colonoscopy is a diagnostic tool similar to an x-ray or a computerized tomography. To this day, it remains the gold standard in the detection of colon cancer. The process involves inserting a five-foot-long scope into the anus (the colon is eight feet long), so that doctors can examine the entire colon for polyps.
Its invasive nature has discouraged people from being examined. Now there are other methods, such as stool tests and blood tests, said Fajardo. Doctors look for blood in the stool or genetic markers that may indicate an increased risk of developing polyps.
In the United States, screening is recommended for those who are 50 or older, although the data suggests reducing them to 45, he said.
Those with a family history of colon cancer should have a screening 10 years earlier. Fajardo said that if his immediate family, like his father, was diagnosed at age 45, he needs a colonoscopy at age 35. But if you have a relative diagnosed at 60, you must have a screening at age 40.
The World Health Organization has examined the risk of consumption of red meat as a possible cause of colon cancer. However, it does not answer why people who live in countries with vegetarian diets, such as India, get colon cancer.
"Every second, 24/7, the body is healing itself. Our body will find a way to heal itself. If you have a wound, there is a gene that codes for the protein and will replace that open wound with a scar or keloid. The problem with cancer is that it is an uncontrolled growth, "said Fajardo.
There is a connection between cancer detection and technology. If the technology is good, there is a better chance of finding cancerous or precancerous cells.
In the United States, doctors adapt the treatment to the patient's genetic profile. Then, before prescribing a cocktail of medications, doctors first check whether the tumor will respond to that cocktail of medications.
The future of cancer treatment is gene therapy, said Fajardo. A virus will be used to repair a gene and stop the growth of cancer.
However, like most cancers, early detection is the key. Your chances of survival will depend on it.
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