Colorectal cancer is a term that includes both colon cancer and rectal cancer. Both types of cancers typically begin with a small polyp. Colon and rectal cancer are both treatable when caught in the early stages.
Because these types of cancer begin from a small polyp, many people don’t have symptoms until it has advanced to a later stage. In the later stages, symptoms include:
- Bowel changes, which include persistent constipation or diarrhea
- Feelings of not being able to completely empty bowels
- Rectal cramping
- Rectal bleeding
- Dark patches of blood on stool
- Long, thin stools
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal bloating or discomfort
There are several tests that are used to diagnose colorectal cancer. A fecal occult blood test is done in the office by a doctor. It tests a small sample of stool to find blood that isn’t visible to the human eye. If blood is found, the patient will be referred to a specialist for further testing. A rectal exam can also be done in the doctor’s office. The doctor uses a gloved hand to gently examine the rectum, feeling for lumps and irregularities.
If a fecal occult blood test or rectal exam warrants further examination, a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy will be done. The patient will be asked to be on a clear liquid diet for 24 hours prior to the exam. Laxatives and enemas may also be used in order to clean the bowels out completely. The tests are done by using a small, flexible tube that has a camera attached. The tube is inserted into the rectum, and the doctor watches on a screen to check for polyps and tumors. Small polyps can be immediately removed and sent for testing to look for cancerous cells. A sigmoidoscopy only examines that lower part of the bowels and does not require anesthesia. During a colonoscopy, patients are put under general anesthesia in order to not feel discomfort during the exam.
Because the earliest stages of colon and rectal cancer have no symptoms, doctors typically recommend getting a colonoscopy every 10 years, beginning at age 50. Getting a check-up for colorectal cancer in Singapore can diagnose cancers in the beginning stages and allow prompt treatment to begin.
Treatment is determined by the stage of cancer. In the beginning stages, surgery is performed to remove the tumour. If it hasn’t spread, no other treatment is required. Later stages of cancer may need chemotherapy or radiation to stop the cancer cells from continuing to spread and grow.
Addressing bowel problems as soon as they are experienced and getting regular rectal exams as recommended by a doctor is the best way to diagnose and treat colon and rectal cancers. Talk with a medical doctor today if you are experiencing any of the symptoms or are 50 years of age or older to determine if you should get a colon exam.