What IsColorectal Cancer?
Colorectal cancer, simply put, is cancer involving the colon and rectum.
Unknown to some, this is actually an umbrella term that comprises both colon and rectal cancer. They are often grouped together and referred to as “colorectal cancer” due to the symptoms, risk factors, tissues and screening procedures (e.g. colonoscopy) that they share in common.
While it has a genetic link, many cases actually develop from a polyp – a usually painless growth on the inner surface of the colon. Though mostly benign, they can become cancerous in the future and therefore must be identified and removed early before developing into cancer.
Unfortunately, colorectal cancer often has no symptoms during its early stages when it’s most treatable. Usually, by the time symptoms have developed, it's already in its advanced stages. This is why timely colonoscopy screenings are so important, even if you feel well on the surface.
Nonetheless, symptoms to look out for include:
- Blood in stools
- Change in bowel habits
- Abdominal pain and discomfort
- Presence of an abdominal lump
- Over 50 years of age
- Family history of colorectal cancer
- Past history of colorectal polyps
- Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn’s Disease
The statistics speak for themselves: Colorectal cancer is the #1 cancer in Singaporean men and the #2 cancer in Singaporean women; and together they form the #1 cancer in Singapore.
Every day, around five Singaporeans are diagnosed and two die of it. As a highly preventable and treatable cancer (if caught in the early stages), these numbers are much too high, and unnecessarily so.
Indeed, this means that many Singaporeans are simply not utilising the available colorectal cancer screening tools enough.
To see what a difference timely colonoscopy screenings can make, we can look to the United States. In the US, where 60% of people aged 50 and above have had a colonoscopy screening, the incidence of colorectal cancer has fallen by 30% over the past decade! It is now the #4 cancer in the US – compared to #1 in Singapore.
Therefore, if you are above the age of 50, make the prudent choice and schedule for a colonoscopy today.