Colon cancer is a frightening word for anyone to hear. For those who have been diagnosed with it, or are at risk for developing it, that fear can be all-consuming. But this type of cancer is relatively common, and can be treated effectively if caught early. Being aware of the risk factors and making lifestyle changes can also reduce the chances of colon cancer. In this post, OncoCare, a leading colon cancer specialist in Singapore discusses what is colon cancer, how to prevent it, the most common spread sites for colon cancer, and treatment methods.
What Is Colon Cancer?
Cancer that begins in the large intestine, or colon, is called colon cancer. The colon is the end of the digestive system. Most people who get colon cancer are older, but it can happen at any age. It usually starts as tiny, non-cancerous groups of cells called polyps that form on the inside wall of the colon. Over time, some of these polyps may become colon cancers. Polyps may be little and cause few, if any, symptoms. This is why doctors recommend regular screening tests to help prevent colon cancer by identifying and removing polyps before they develop into adenomatous polyps with dysplasia (precancerous & abnormal cells) that turn into cancer.
What Causes Colon Cancer & How To Prevent It
As you age, your risk for colon cancer goes up. Other things that can increase your risk and cause colon cancer are:
- Having family members who have had colon or rectum cancer such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer (HNPCC))
- Eating a lot of meat (especially red and processed meat) along with insufficient consumption of fruits and vegetables
- A lack of exercise
- Being overweight
- Drinking a lot of alcohol
- Having certain medical conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease
Understanding the risk factors that can cause colon cancer helps in knowing how to prevent it. Other than going for regular screenings and removing benign polyps if they develop in your colon, being physically active, ensuring a healthy weight, controlling your alcohol consumption, avoiding smoking and watching your diet lowers the chances of developing colon cancer.
Symptoms Of Colon Cancer
Colon cancer symptoms can be hard to notice because they are non-specific. This means that they can be caused by other things besides cancer. However, some common symptoms of colon cancer are:
- Having abdominal pain or bloating more often than usual
- Disruption to your bowel habits such as diarrhoea, constipation or alternating between both
- Blood in your stools, and/or
- Losing weight without meaning to
What Should I Do If I Show Symptoms Of Colon Cancer?
Early detection of cancer is crucial to effective treatment. If you show signs of colon cancer, it is best to go for a screening with a colon cancer specialist in Singapore such as OncoCare.
There are a few options for screening such as:
- FOBT/Faecal Occult Blood Test – Testing the stools for blood that you may not be able to see with your eyes
- Colonoscopy – insertion of a flexible tube with a camera into the rectum & colon to take a closer look at the inside of the large intestines
- Computer Tomography (CT) Colonography or ‘Virtual Colonography’ – undergoing a scan of the intestines for a detailed examination of the inside of the large intestines
For an accurate diagnosis of suspected cancerous cells and tumours, you can also go for a biopsy, where a sample of your body’s cells or tissues will be taken to determine the presence or extent of cancer.
Frequent Spread Sites Of Colon Cancer
Colon cancer can spread to different parts of the body, but there are some areas where it is more likely to go. The most common spread sites are the liver and lungs, lymph nodes, bones (spine, hip, long bones such as legs or arms) and peritoneum (membrane that lines the abdominal cavity).
When colon cancer has spread to these respective areas, certain symptoms may emerge in those parts of the body:
– Liver: fatigue, jaundice, swelling in extremities, nausea or abdominal bloating
– Lungs: shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pain or persistent cough
– Lymph nodes: abdominal bloating and swelling as well as a reduced appetite
– Peritoneum: abdominal pain, bloating, a constant feeling of fullness, weight gain or loss or nausea
– Bones: bone pain, bone weakness that can lead to breaks, high levels of calcium in your blood, spine compression
OncoCare: Your Colon Cancer Specialist In Singapore
With colorectal cancer being the third most common cancer in the world for men and women, it is advisable to go to a colon cancer specialist in Singapore such as OncoCare for diagnosis and treatment if you have any of the symptoms mentioned above. Although this form of cancer is common, it can be treated effectively if detected early.
At OncoCare, we take a multi-disciplinary approach to colon cancer treatment. This means that we use a variety of different treatments such as chemotherapy, targeted therapy and immunotherapy for selected patients that best suit each individual’s needs and condition. Chemotherapy is designed to kill cancer cells, targeted therapy is designed to only kill certain malignant tumour cells, and immunotherapy is designed to harness the natural ability of our immune system to combat cancer. Make an appointment at one of our conveniently located clinics today to learn how we can assist you in your cancer journey. Alternatively, find out more about the different treatments, screenings and tests we use, explore our services page.
“Expert knowledge means better care for cancer”
Dr Akhil Chopra
American Board Certified (Int Med)
American Board Certified (Hematology)
American Board Certified (Med Oncology)