Colorectal cancer is the most common type of cancer. Both men and women are at risk, but it is more common in men. The risk of colorectal cancer increases after the age of 50. However, this does not mean that you should ignore symptoms if you are under 50 years of age – there has been an increase in the number of colorectal cancer cases reported in younger men since the 1990s.
Singapore General Hospital (SGH) has observed more cases of colorectal cancer in younger men in recent years. In this article, we discuss the symptoms of colorectal cancer, the treatment and diagnosis, and screening methods that are available. Additionally, Dr Ganesh answers some questions revolving around colorectal cancer in younger males.
What Are The Symptoms Of Colorectal Cancer?
Common symptoms related to colorectal cancer include:
- Changes in bowel movements (diarrhoea or constipation)
- Rectal bleeding
- Blood in stools
- Cramping, bloating, or abdominal pains
- Unexplained weight loss
Many of these symptoms can be linked to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a viral infection, or a poor diet. It is essential that you pay attention to any changes in your body. If any of these symptoms persist for longer than a month, consult your doctor.
How Is Colon Cancer Diagnosed & Treated?
If you show symptoms of colorectal cancer, your doctor may suggest that you have a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy is a procedure that allows your doctor to examine your colon with a scope while you are sedated.
If your doctor detects anything unusual during the colonoscopy, a biopsy can be performed. A biopsy is where a small piece of tissue is removed during the colonoscopy for analysis.
What Screening Methods Are Available To Detect Colon Cancer?
Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT):
- Should be done yearly
- Non-invasive test
- Easy to self-administer
- No fasting required
- Available at the Singapore Cancer Society at no charge
- Should be done once every 10 years
- Can detect and remove pre-cancerous growths and polyps
- Conducted by a doctor in a specialist clinic
Rising Rates Of Colorectal Cancer In Young People
Studies have shown that in recent years there has been an increasing number of cases of colorectal cancer in younger patients (under the age of 50).
While the exact cause of this increase is still unclear, many doctors are associating it to environmental and lifestyle changes of current generations.
More sedentary lifestyles and a decrease in fibre in our diets have been linked to the rise of cases of colorectal cancer in younger adults.
We asked Dr Ganesh the following questions:
- From Your Understanding, Why Is Colorectal Cancer On The Rise In Young Adults?
There can be multiple factors leading to the rise of Colorectal Cancer in young adults, genetic history and lifestyle are two possible factors that can lead to this rising trend.
Increased awareness of the importance of screening for colorectal cancer via tests can also lead to early detections as compared to the past.
- How Does The Disease Differ In Younger & Older Patients?
In general, the symptoms are similar in younger and older patients; however, the disease may go undetected in younger patients until the cancer advances.
- What Are The Potential Factors Associated With Colorectal Cancer?
There are no telltale signs that you are definitely at risk of developing colorectal cancer. However, several factors associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer include:
- Physical inactivity
- Heavy alcohol use
- Old age
- Dietary habits
- Family history related to colorectal cancer
While the risk of colorectal cancer increases after the age of 50, it does not mean that one should ignore symptoms since they are young. As mentioned, cases of colorectal cancer have increased in younger adults.
If you notice any of the symptoms of colorectal cancer and find that they persist for more than a month, speak with your doctor. Opt for routined tests and screens if you have a family history of colorectal cancer. Early detection of the disease is possible and increases your chances of curing it.