Colon Cancer

Colorectal cancer is cancer involving the large intestine – which is the final part of the digestive tract. It was believed that most colon cancer originated from polyps, which is a lump arising from the inner wall of the colon and rectum. Over many years, these colon polyps will grow and transform into cancer. Colon cancer is the number 1 cancer for men and number 2 for women in Singapore.

Screening For Colorectal Cancer

Colon cancer is actually preventable. Currently Singapore have comprehensive screening guideline to protect you from getting colorectal cancer.

All person above the age of 50 should go for colorectal cancer screening regardless of whether they have symptoms. The new recommended age has reduced down to 45 due to increase incidence of colon cancer in younger age group and it is recently updated by the American Cancer Society.

In Singapore, colorectal screening with stool test is available through polyclinics, family doctors and various organization such as Singapore Cancer Society. This should be done at least yearly if patient has no previous colonoscopy.

Alternative to stool test is to do colonoscopy once every ten years. 

Person with increased risk should undergo colonoscopy even earlier. These include people with

  • A strong family history of colorectal cancer
  • A personal history of colorectal cancer or previous colon polyps
  • A personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease)
  • A known family history of a hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or Lynch syndrome (also known as hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer or HNPCC)

During colonoscopy, polyps are detected and remove. The procedure to remove the polyp is called polypectomy. The polyps will be retrieved for examination under the microscope. 

Effective removal of all polyps during colonoscopy will prevent colorectal cancer.

Symptoms

Most colorectal cancers begin as a benign polyp. Polyps, usually do not give rise to any symptoms unless they are very large.

Many people with colon cancer experience vague or no symptoms  in the early stages. When they do appear at a later stages, they can also vary depending on the cancer’s size and location.

 The common symptoms  of colorectal cancer include:

  • Blood in stool or rectal bleeding
  • Change in bowel habits, including constipation, diarrhea, or a change in stool consistence which lasts longer than 4 weeks
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Persistent abdominal symptoms like gas, cramps and pain
  • Unexplained weight loss

 Treatment

Treatment of colon cancers, largely depend on the stage of cancer. Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy may be recommended as treatment options. 

Visit a clinic or talk to a specialist in gastroenterology in singapore about your options and the costs involved, and discuss which tests or treatment methods are more appropriate for your needs.