Dramatic Increase in Colon Cancer Rates in Kenya and Why Screening and Early Diagnosis is a lifesaver.


Introduction to Colon Cancer

Colon cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the large intestine, also known as the colon, which is the first and longest part of the large intestine.

It typically affects older adults but can occur at any age. Cancer usually begins as small clumps of cells called polyps that form inside the colon. These cells are generally not cancerous but can turn into colon cancers over time.

This condition is also known as colorectal carcinoma (CRC)

Key Points about colon cancer

  • Colon cancer starts as polyps in the colon that can turn cancerous over time
  • Symptoms may include changes in bowel habits, rectal bleeding, and unexplained weight loss
  • Risk factors include older age, inherited syndromes, and certain medical conditions
  • Treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy
  • Early detection through screening is key to preventing colon cancer

Burden of colon cancer in Kenya

Colon cancer is a common type of cancer in Kenya, with an estimated incidence rate of 4.8 per 100,000 population. Many patients are diagnosed late, when its too late to treat effectively.

Most eligible people do not attend screening sessions, due to lack of awareness or financial constraints.

It is more common in men than women.

Risk Factors for Colon Cancer

  • Older age (most common after age 50)
  • Inherited syndromes like familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and Lynch syndrome
  • Personal or family history of colon polyps or colon cancer
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Diets high in red or processed meats
  • Smoking
  • Heavy alcohol use

Signs and Symptoms of colorectal cancer

  • Changes in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool that lasts for more than a few days
  • Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool
  • Persistent abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, gas, or pain
  • A feeling that the bowel doesn’t empty completely
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss
Colon Cancer

Prevention and Screening options for colon cancer

  • Get regular screening tests starting at age 45 (or earlier if you have risk factors)
  • Maintain a healthy weight and stay physically active
  • Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • Limit red and processed meats
  • Don’t smoke and limit alcohol use
  • Manage chronic conditions like diabetes and inflammatory bowel diseases

Screening Modalities

  • Colonoscopy every 10 years (preferred method)
  • Stool-based tests like fecal immunochemical test (FIT) or high-sensitivity guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) annually
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years
  • CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) every 5 years

Diagnosis of Colon Cancer

As mentioned above, early diagnosis is key to successful treatment

  • Physical exam and medical history
  • Colonoscopy and biopsy
  • Blood tests to check for anemia or other signs of disease
  • Imaging tests like CT scans or MRI to determine the extent of the cancer

Treatment and Management

  • Surgery to remove the tumor and nearby lymph nodes
  • Radiation therapy to shrink tumors before surgery or to kill remaining cancer cells after surgery
  • Chemotherapy to kill cancer cells
  • Targeted therapy to target specific gene changes in cancer cells
  • Immunotherapy to boost the body’s immune system to fight cancer cells

The outlook for colon cancer generally depends on the stage of the cancer when diagnosed, with earlier stages having a better prognosis. Regular screening is key to detecting colon cancer early when it is most treatable.


The information provided on this medical blog is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making any healthcare decisions or taking any actions based on the information provided on this blog. The authors and publishers of this blog are not liable for any errors or omissions in the content or for any actions taken based on the information provided.

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