Colon Cancer

colon cancer
Colon or colorectal cancer develops due to tumours or polyps that have grown over time.

What is Colon Cancer?

Colon cancer, also known as bowel cancer or colorectal cancer in Singapore, develops in the colon or rectum, which are parts of the large intestine. It is one of the most common types of cancer in Singapore. It typically begins as noncancerous growths of cells called polyps that form on the inner lining of the colon or rectum. Over time, if left untreated, these polyps can grow out of control and develop into colon cancer.

What are the common symptoms of Colon Cancer in Singapore?

There are a variety of symptoms associated with colon cancer, but these may not be noticeable in the early stage. The most common symptoms of colon cancer include:

  • Bowel habit changes: changes in your bowel habits, such as persistent diarrhoea or constipation, may be a symptom of colon cancer. Narrow stools that are pencil-thin and the feeling of not emptying your bowels fully may also be a symptom. 
  • Blood in stool: one of the most common signs of colon cancer is the presence of blood in the stool, which may be bright red or very dark and tarry. Blood may be visible in the toilet bowl or on toilet paper.
  • Stomach discomfort: frequent pain, cramping, bloating, pressure, fullness, or discomfort in the stomach may be an indicator of colon cancer. 
  • Weight loss: rapid weight loss that occurs without changes in diet or physical activity is often a symptom of colon cancer.
  • Fatigue: fatigue or weakness may be related to colon cancer, especially in the advanced stage.

Colon cancer may be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms above are also associated with other conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), haemorrhoids, or infections. 

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms stated above, book an appointment with Alpine Surgical Practice today.

What causes Colon Cancer?

Colon cancer, like other types of cancer, often develops as a result of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. These result in cells being overproduced and multiplying out of control.

When cells in the colon grow and divide uncontrollably, polyps develop, which may eventually become cancerous if not removed. However, although researchers know that cancer is caused by cells growing and dividing uncontrollably, the exact reason why this happens is not always clear.
colon cancer cause
Colon cancer is caused by the uncontrollable growth and division of colon cells.

Is Colon Cancer painful?

Colon cancer may not typically cause noticeable pain or symptoms in its early stages. This is why regular screenings for colon cancer, such as a colonoscopy, are vital for early detection and prevention. However, as colon cancer progresses or if it reaches an advanced stage, it can lead to symptoms that may include abdominal pain or discomfort.

Who is at risk of Colon Cancer in Singapore?

Several factors can increase the likelihood of developing colon cancer, and some individuals may have multiple risk factors. Here are some common risk factors that can apply to individuals in Singapore:

  • Age: colon cancer is more common in older adults, with the risk increasing significantly after the age of 50. However, it can also develop at any age; in fact, recent years have shown an increase in colon cancer in young adults.
  • Family history: those with a family history of polyps or colon cancer have a higher risk.
  • Polyps: those who have developed colorectal polyps and do not remove them or get them treated may be at a higher risk of developing colon cancer. 
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD): individuals with conditions like Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis also have a higher risk of colon cancer.
  • Lifestyle and diet: a lifestyle that lacks physical activity and habits such as excessive alcohol and smoking, as well as a diet low in fibre and high in processed meats, may increase one’s risk of colon cancer. 
  • Obesity: being overweight or obese may cause colon cancer.
  • Medical conditions: individuals with conditions such as type 2 diabetes may have an increased risk of developing colon cancer.
  • Lack of screening: not screening for colon cancer, especially if polyps are present, can contribute to the progression of the disease and other complications.
colon cancer
Early screening is essential to prevent polyps from developing into colon cancer.

How is Colon Cancer diagnosed in Singapore?

The diagnosis of colon cancer involves the following: 

  • Medical history: your colorectal specialist will first take a detailed medical history, including any symptoms you may be experiencing and your personal and family medical history.
  • Physical examination: a physical examination may also be performed to check for areas of tenderness.
  • Blood tests: blood tests may be conducted to check for abnormalities and complications that could be associated with colon cancer.
  • Imaging tests: computed tomography (CT) scans or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be performed to obtain images of the colon and surrounding areas to assess the disease's extent.
  • Colonoscopy: one of the most common methods used to diagnose colon cancer. A colonoscopy involves a thin, flexible tube with a camera on the end (colonoscope) inserted into the rectum and passed through the entire colon. It allows for visualisation of the lining of the colon and the detection of polyps or growths. Tissue samples may also be taken for a biopsy. 

It is important to seek medical attention if you experience symptoms suggestive of colon cancer or if you have risk factors that make you more susceptible to the disease. Early diagnosis and treatment are vital to improving the chances of successful outcomes in colon cancer cases. Regular screenings are crucial in early detection and prevention, especially for high-risk individuals.

What are the treatment options for Colon Cancer in Singapore?

The treatment for colon cancer depends on the individual, severity, and stage of the disease. In general, these are the treatment options: 

  • Surgery: surgical removal of the tumour and surrounding tissue is a common treatment for colon cancer, although it depends on the size and location of the tumour. 
  • Chemotherapy: chemotherapy uses drugs to eradicate cancer cells or prevent them from growing. It is often used after surgery to destroy any remaining cancer cells or to shrink tumours before surgery.
  • Radiation therapy: radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to target and destroy cancer cells. It is sometimes used to shrink tumours.
  • Palliative care: for advanced-stage colon cancer that has no cure, palliative care will be used to relieve symptoms, manage pain, and improve the quality of life for the patient.
  • Clinical trials: participation in clinical trials may be an option for some individuals with colon cancer.
colon cancer
A diet high in fibre and low in saturated fats can significantly help prevent colon cancer.

The Battle Against Colorectal Cancer in Singapore

Frequently asked questions

Screening recommendations vary depending on the individual, but regular screenings typically begin at age 50.

It depends on factors like the stage of diagnosis. Colon cancer is a very common disease. When detected early, colon cancer is highly treatable, and many individuals can be cured.
It varies depending on the stage at diagnosis and the effectiveness of treatment. Early detection and treatment often lead to better outcomes.
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