Cancer of the colon and rectum in a Jamaican population: diagnostic implications of the changing frequency and subsite distribution

M E C McFarlane, A Rhoden, P R Fletcher, R Carpenter
West Indian Medical Journal 2004, 53 (3): 170-3
The aim of this study was to examine the clinical and pathological characteristics of colorectal cancer in Jamaica, to determine whether there was a change in the anatomic distribution and clinical presentation and to discuss the options for diagnosis and management. A comprehensive retrospective review of patients newly diagnosed with colorectal carcinoma was conducted at The University Hospital of the West Indies by reviewing both patient records and pathological data. These data were compared with previous reports of patients with colorectal cancer seen in Jamaica. One hundred and forty-seven patients were studied There were 85 females and 62 males with a female to male ratio of 1.37:1. The median age was 65.5 years (range 19 to 94 years). The predominant symptoms were abdominal pain in 91 patients, change in bowel habit in 77 patients and rectal bleeding in 74 patients. Sixty patients presented with weight loss and 28 with a rectal mass. The most common tumours were right-sided colonic cancers in 42 patients (28.5%) followed by sigmoid colon in 30 (20.4%) rectum in 34 (23.1%) and left and transverse colon accounting for 16 and 10 cases respectively. Most of the tumours were well or moderately differentiated adenocarcinomas. Only eight patients presented with Dukes' A disease, 50 with Dukes'B, 53 with Dukes'C disease and 34 with advanced disease. The findings showed that sigmoid and rectal tumours accounted for 43.5% of cancers. The colon/rectum ratio in this series was 3.3:1 indicating a significant proximal shift of colorectal cancers in this population in keeping with recent reports. The results of the current study suggest that the sub-site location of colorectal cancers seen is similar to that reported in high incidence countries such as the United States of America and parts of Europe but differs from the African continent which has a high proportion of rectal tumours. This right-sided preponderance also differs from previous studies in Jamaica, which report a higher incidence of rectal lesions The detection of early colorectal carcinoma will require screening at a stage when the disease is asymptomatic in order to improve the chance for cure. The data presented here imply that screening programmes should allow evaluation of the entire colon rather than the distal 25 cm.

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