What is Colorectal Cancer?
The colon and rectum are at the end of the digestive tract, before the anus. After digestion of food, the remaining waste is channelled through the colon, and it is stored in the rectum before it is passed out at the appropriate time. The colon helps to absorb water, vitamins and minerals.
The signs of colorectal cancer include abdominal pain, bloatedness, bleeding when passing stools, lumps in the stomach and loss of weight. Cancer of the colon may be genetic or it may occur due to environmental factors. These may include obesity, sedentary lifestyle, high fat and low fibre diet. They usually start as a polyp which is a small growth. This may increase in size to be a pre-cancerous and then a full cancerous growth. This usually takes many years to develop.
Therefore, regular checks of the colorectal region with a colonoscopy is important. The colonoscopy can detect and remove small polyps and precancerous lumps before a colorectal cancer operation. This will prevent the development of cancer.
Colorectal cancer treatment is usually surgery where the part of the colon with the cancer is removed. In advanced cancers, colorectal cancer surgery is combined with either chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
A high fibre, low-fat diet and active lifestyle, together with regular colonoscopy screening can prevent cancer.
What are the symptoms of Colorectal Cancer?
Early-stage colorectal cancer rarely causes symptoms, making early detection very difficult. These symptoms can also be associated with other gastrointestinal illnesses apart from colorectal cancer and should be discussed with a doctor who can perform tests to determine the cause of the symptoms.
It is recommended to seek medical advice if you experience persistent symptoms such as:
• Constipation or diarrhoea
• Changes in stool colour
• Changes in stool shape, such as narrowed stool
• Blood in the stool
• Bleeding from the rectum
• Excessive gas
• Abdominal pain and cramps
• Unexplained weight loss
• Chronic tiredness
While some of the symptoms are common to other non-cancerous conditions, it is important to identify if you noticed a change or discomfort for a period of time. We recommend seeking medical advice to determine the cause of your symptoms and whether treatment is required.
What is the treatment for Colorectal Cancer?
Diagnosis and Treatment
Many people in Singapore suffer colorectal cancer and as a result, require treatment. Colorectal cancer is a serious condition but in many cases with early diagnosis and treatment, patients have an excellent chance for cure. The initial evaluation will involve doing colonoscopy to visualize the tumour, obtain tissue to confirm the diagnosis and clear the colon of polyps. A CT scan or PET scan will be obtained to determine if the tumour is localized or has spread to other parts of the body. Blood tests will also be obtained to check for your general health status and prepare for surgery.
Surgery is generally the most effective way to deal with Colorectal Cancer. If all tumour (s) can be removed, the prognosis is good. In patients with rectal cancer, or where the tumour is very large or invading an adjacent organ, we may recommend initial chemotherapy or radiotherapy to shrink the tumour before proceeding with colon cancer surgery.
Laparoscopic Colorectal Surgery
One of the great advances in Colorectal Surgery is the use of minimally invasive surgery for Colorectal Cancer. Laparoscopic surgery avoids the trauma of a large abdominal wound associated with conventional surgery and results in less pain and much quicker recovery for our patients.
The advantages of laparoscopic surgery for Colorectal Cancer are:
• Less pain
• Quicker recovery
• Less risk of chest infection and postoperative complications
• Shorter hospital stay
• Possible improvement in long term survival for selected patients
If you require colorectal cancer diagnosis and/or treatment in Singapore, we can provide options for you.
Schedule a consult with our doctor Dr Ganesh Ramalingam
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