March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and it is important to raise awareness of this disease in Singapore. Colorectal cancer is the most common cancer among men and the second most common cancer among women in Singapore, accounting for 18.2% of all cancer cases in the country.
Despite being highly treatable when detected early, colorectal cancer is still one of Singapore’s leading causes of cancer-related deaths. Understanding the risk factors and early signs of colorectal cancer is essential to increase the chances of early detection and effective treatment.
Risk Factors of Colorectal Cancer
Several factors can increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer. The most significant risk factor is age, with most cases occurring in people over 50. Other factors that can increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer include:
- Family history: People with a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps are at a higher risk of developing the disease.
- Obesity: Being overweight or obese increases the risk of developing colorectal cancer, especially in men.
- Diet: A diet high in red and processed meats and low in fibre can increase the risk of colorectal cancer.
- Smoking: Smoking has been linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancer and many other types of cancer.
The Importance Of Early Detection In Colorectal Cancer
Early detection of colorectal cancer is critical, as it can be treated more easily in its early stages. Regular screening for signs of colon polyps is the most effective way to detect colorectal cancer early. The Health Promotion Board recommends that those with an average risk of colorectal cancer should start regular screening at age 50. However, people with a family history of colorectal cancer or other risk factors, such as colon polyps, may need to start screening earlier.
By detecting colorectal cancer early, the chances of successful treatment and survival significantly improve. It is important to discuss your screening options with your doctor and to follow through with the recommended screening schedule.
10 Early Signs Of Colorectal Cancer
While regular screening is essential for detecting colorectal cancer, it’s also important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of the disease. Here are the 10 early signs of colorectal cancer that everyone should be aware of:
- Changes in bowel habits: Any changes in bowel habits, such as diarrhoea and constipation, can be a sign of colorectal cancer.
- Blood in stool: Blood in the stool can be a sign of colorectal cancer. However, there are many other potential causes of blood in the stool, so it’s essential to speak to a doctor to determine the cause.
- Abdominal pain and cramps: Persistent abdominal pain and cramps can be a sign of colorectal cancer, especially if they are accompanied by other symptoms.
- Unexplained weight loss: Losing weight without trying can be a sign of many types of cancer, including colorectal cancer.
- Anaemia and weakness: Colorectal cancer can cause bleeding in the intestines, which can lead to anaemia and weakness.
- Changes in stool consistency and colour: Any changes in the consistency or colour of the stool can be a sign of colorectal cancer.
- Feeling that bowel does not empty completely: If you feel that your bowel does not empty completely after a bowel movement, it could be a sign of colorectal cancer.
- Rectal bleeding: Seeing blood on the toilet paper after wiping can indicate colorectal cancer.
- Bloating after small meals: Persistent bloating and gas after small meals is a possible symptom of colorectal cancer.
- Nausea and vomiting: While many conditions, including colorectal cancer can cause nausea and vomiting, it’s important to speak to a doctor if these symptoms persist.
It’s important to note that other conditions may also cause these symptoms. So if you experience them, it’s essential to speak to a doctor to determine the cause.
In observance of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, book an appointment for a colonoscopy examination as a step towards improving your colon health and to give yourself a peace of mind.
At G&L Surgical, we provide professional advice on colonoscopy procedures and colorectal cancer. If you have any questions on these examinations and conditions, contact our team for assistance.