Colon cancer and rectal cancer are referred to together as colorectal cancer. According to Singapore Cancer Registry Annual Report 2019, colorectal cancer has been one of the ten most frequently occurring cancers for men and women for the period 2015-2019. The data in the report also indicates that colorectal cancer is a leading cause of death in cancer patients. Therefore, understanding the risk factors, prevention techniques, and treatment options is important for early detection and better outcomes from colorectal cancer treatment.
Colorectal cancer usually begins as a non-cancerous tissue growth (polyp) on the inner portions of the colon or rectum, turning cancerous over time if it remains undetected. Colorectal cancer typically begins in the large intestine in the form of benign cell clumps, and some of these later may become cancerous.
Early discovery of non-cancerous cells before it develops into malignant cancerous growth through colonoscopy can help find better treatment and possibly stop the cancerous growth.
Signs and Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer
It is not uncommon for colorectal cancer to manifest itself completely unnoticed. However, the following are possible symptoms when they do appear:
- Disruption in the bowel movement
- Consistent diarrhea and constipation
- Recurrent bowel movements with blood in them
- Pain or cramping in the lower abdomen, as well as gas or bloating
- Fatigue or a feeling of exhaustion
- Gastrointestinal insufficiency
- Sudden weight loss
There are no signs for many persons with colorectal cancer in its early stages. Therefore, it can remain hidden without any colorectal cancer symptoms for many people.
What are Colorectal Cancer Causes
Medical science is still researching and understanding the reasons behind cancerous cell growth in the colon. Colorectal cancer typically originates from a change (mutation) in the DNA of healthy cells in the colon or rectum. Specific instructions in a cell’s DNA dictate what it should or should not be doing.
Orderly cell growth and division are essential to the body’s regular operation. In contrast, when a cell’s DNA is disrupted and becomes malignant, cells continue to proliferate even when new cells are no longer required. A tumour is formed as a result of the accumulation of these cells.
Cancer cells can potentially spread and damage healthy tissue in the vicinity if left untreated for an extended period. In addition, malignant cells might spread to other parts of the body and form deposits in those regions (metastasis).
Some of the known risk factors of colorectal cancer include:
- Family history of colorectal cancer
- Lack of nutritional diet
- Inactive lifestyle
- Older age, over 50
- Other diseases like diabetes and obesity
Colorectal Cancer Screening
Specific age groups over 50 are at a higher risk of colorectal cancer. Therefore, most doctors suggest screening for adults with the abovementioned risk factors for people over 45. However, those with a family history of colon cancer should opt for screening early.
Each screening method has its own advantages and disadvantages. Your doctor can help you make an informed decision regarding the appropriateness of specific tests by discussing your options.
Singapore health practitioners suggest colonoscopy or Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) for men and women over 50. An early indicator of colon cancer can be detected by the FIT test, which screens for concealed blood in the stool. On the other hand, colonoscopy allows your doctor to look for unusual growths on your intestinal lining.
Colorectal Cancer Treatments
A doctor can determine the best course of action for colorectal cancer treatment after determining the stage of the disease. The treatment options can include:
- Radiation therapy
Early-stage colorectal cancer has an 84 and 86% survival rate for men and women, respectively. However, the survival rate drops drastically, about 10-11% for both genders, if the colon cancer progresses to stage IV (based on 2011-2015 data).
Further Reading On Colorectal Cancer
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This article is informative only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.