• What is colorectal cancer?

    It is cancer that starts in the large intestine (colon) or the rectum (end of the colon), developing from the cells lining the colon/rectum. The cancer can cause blockages in the colon, and may cause bleeding (observed in the stools). It is the most common cancer amongst males in Singapore, as well as for both genders combined. Most patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer will die from the disease if not adequately treated. Yet, most of these cases would have been curable if they had been diagnosed early.

  • Am I at risk?

    Colorectal cancer may occur at any age. Other high risk factors include: a family history of polyps and colorectal cancer, especially so if the family member is young; a personal history of ulcerative colitis, colonic polyps or cancer(s) of other organs (especially of the breast or uterus). Your lifetime risk for developing colorectal cancer without any other risk factors is 1 in 50.

  • What are the symptoms?

    Many patients with colorectal cancer have none, or very few symptoms. The most common symptoms of colorectal cancer are rectal bleeding and a change in bowel habits (e.g. persistent constipation or diarrhoea, change in frequency of stools).

    These symptoms may arise due to other benign conditions, so it is important to undergo a thorough examination to obtain a proper diagnosis. Other symptoms include persistent ill-defined abdominal discomfort or pain. Occasionally a mass is felt in the abdomen. Abdominal pain and weight loss are usually late symptoms indicating possible extensive disease.

  • How is colorectal cancer treated?

    Nearly all cases require surgery for complete cure. In addition, chemotherapy and radiotherapy are sometimes used. Colostomy, an artificial opening in the abdominal wall, is occasionally required. This is usually temporary but is sometimes permanent. Between 80-90% of patients are restored to health if the cancer is detected and treated in the early stages (Stage I & II).

  • Can colorectal cancer be prevented?

    Nearly all colon and rectal cancer begins in benign polyps. Removal of benign polyps is an effective method to prevent progression to cancer. Examination of the colon (colonoscopy) and removal of polyps is a safe procedure that can be done on an outpatient basis, with or without sedation.

    It is important to note that a healthy diet plays a significant role in the prevention of colorectal cancer. In addition, you should be aware of changes in your bowel habits. Ensure you undergo thorough examination if you have any symptoms, or if you fall into the ‘high risk’ group.

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