A scope in time
Cancer is among the top causes of death across the world. While science still searches for a cure, one small step can go a long way to help regular screening.
Dr Ganesh Ramalingam
Colon cancer is one of the top cancers in Singapore, especially among men. There are about 1,200 new cases of colorectal cancer diagnosed here each year. Age-standardised incidences of colon and rectal cancer in Singapore are among the highest in the world.
One of the reasons why this type of cancer is so hard to treat is that it is only detected in its late stages. Many early stage cancers in the colon, stomach and even throat do not present any symptoms or discomfort. It is only when the cancers are at advanced stage and incurable that they produce symptoms such as pai, bleeding and loss weight. By this time, chances are high that the cancer has spread.
However, if spotted early, survival rates are higher and the outcomes are more in your favour. This underscores the importance of regular health screening and early detection to reduce the devastating impact of colon cancer.
Check it out
One screening that is able to detect colon and even stomach cancer in its early stages is an endoscopic screening. This procedure involves using an endoscope to examine the tissues for growth of lumps, redness, swelling and ulcers. An endoscope is a thin flexible tube with a camera at the tip. Other instruments can also be inserted through this scope to perform other procedures. An endoscopic screening can be used to screen the oesophagus, the stomach and the colour for other cancers.
A colonoscopy is an endoscopic screening that examines the large intestine together with the rectum and
anus. It is the gold standard for
complete large bowel evaluation.
A gastroscopy is an endoscopic investigation of the oesophagus and stomach from the mouth through to the start of the small intestine.
These tests generally take 15 to 30 minutes. You may be given a sedative to make you drowsy and relaxed during the procedure, you will be taken to a recovery area until the effects of the sedative wear off. You may go home after the procedure but will need to arrange for someone to take you home and stay with you for at least 24 hours.
By performing a scope, these cancers can be detected at an early stage while they are small and can be removed completely for a higher chance of cure. In fact, screening every three to five years has been shown to reduce cancer deaths by more than 90%.
There are many benefits of endoscopy. One of these is that it allows the doctor to have direct and clear visualisation of the tissues being examined. During the procedure, samples of any detected polyps, ulcers or tissues that are swollen and inflamed can be taken for a biopsy. Small lumps can also be completely removed and sent for further tests. In fact, a colonoscopy not only detects early cancers with a good chance of a cure, but also prevents cancer by removing polyps that may eventually turn cancerous.
It is important to see your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms, as these could be signs of stomach or colon cancer.
- Stomach pain
- Heartburn or reflux into the chest or throat
- Fresh blood passed from the anus or black stools
- Bloated sensation in the stomach
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Constipation, diarrhoea or change in bowel habits from the usual
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of weight