Colorectal cancer is one of the types of cancer with a high survival rate when caught at an early stage. However, because this disease grows slowly over time and seldom shows any signs or symptoms during its onset, it can be diagnosed at an advanced stage already. To avoid late diagnosis, doctors recommend undergoing colorectal cancer screening in Singapore (https://alpinesurgical.sg/conditions/colorectal-colon-cancer/) especially when a person’s chances of developing this kind of cancer is high.
Who is at high risk of developing colorectal cancer?
In general, any one can develop colorectal cancer. Those whose risk of developing this disease is particularly high are usually individuals who have a history of colorectal cancer in their family. The high chances are even doubled when these factors are present:
- Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle
- Underlying medical conditions
- Unhealthy diet
Age. While colorectal cancer can start at any age, a lot of patients that are diagnosed with colorectal cancer are mostly past the age of 50.
Gender. Colorectal cancer is more common in men than women.
Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. Gaining excessive weight due to lack of exercise or physical activity can increase a person’s risk of developing colorectal cancer.
Race. Among all the races, people from African or African-American descent have the highest probability of getting diagnosed with colorectal cancer. This disease is one of the top types of cancer that leads to deaths among black people.
Smoking. Studies done in recent years have linked smoking to colorectal cancer, noting that smokers have a greater risk of succumbing to the disease as compared to non-smokers.
Underlying medical conditions. Other medical conditions can contribute to the development or progression of colorectal cancer. Some of these are:
- Adenomatous polyps (adenomas)
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Gardner Syndrome
- Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)
- Juvenile polyposis syndrome
- Lynch syndrome
- Other types of cancer
Unhealthy diet. Scientific research has found out that the presence of colorectal cancer in patients can be attributed to the high consumption of processed and red meat.
Colorectal cancer symptoms
As mentioned earlier, colorectal cancer rarely gives away signs or symptoms during its early stages. Once the disease has progressed, the following symptoms may be present:
- Bowel habit changes
- Pain in the abdomen
- Presence of blood in the stool
- Unexplained and unintentional loss of weight
Colorectal cancer screening
To have better chances of surviving colorectal cancer, it is recommended that patients whose risk of acquiring the disease subject themselves to colorectal cancer screening. There are several ways of getting screened for colorectal cancer:
- Fecal Immunochemical Testing (FIT)
Colonoscopy. The most common colorectal cancer screening prescribed in Singapore is colonoscopy. This procedure makes use of a colonoscope, which is medical equipment consisting of a flexible tube connected to a monitor and attached with a tiny camera and light at one of its ends. The lighted camera is inserted into the anus and is gently manoeuvred through the rectum until it reaches the colon. The video camera transmits the images inside the large intestines onto the video monitor to show its current condition.
Fecal Immunochemical Testing (FIT). This type of screening for colorectal cancer involves examining the stool and detecting hidden blood that is usually a sign that cancer is present. This procedure can only identify human blood coming from the lower area of the colon. Patients who are not fit to undergo colonoscopy can opt to get screened through Fecal Immunochemical Testing.
Sigmoidoscopy. This test is another alternative in case a person is not qualified for a colonoscopy procedure. Sigmoidoscopy is similar to colonoscopy, wherein it uses a medical device with a flexible tube and lighted camera. The only difference is the area where the device examines. Sigmoidoscopy covers the sigmoid colon (lower part of the large intestine) and the rectum only. This procedure aims to find polyps, which are abnormal growths, that may mutate into cancer.
Preparing for colorectal cancer screening
Preparations for colorectal cancer screening through colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy are similar:
- Align your schedule. Preparing for a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy procedure can place you in uncomfortable situations, so it is best that you do not schedule any major activity or engagement during the week of your preparation and scheduled procedure.
- Change in diet. Patients who will undergo colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy need to cleanse their intestines at least 3 to 4 days before the scheduled test. During this time, the only foods allowed are those with low fibre, such as rice, pasta, white bread, eggs, chicken, fish, seedless and peeled fruits, well-cooked and peeled vegetables. No solid food is allowed at least 24 hours before the procedure. Instead, take only clear liquids, such as clear broth, apple juice, white grape juice, or clear sports drink. Black coffee is allowed, as well as popsicles and gelatin, provided that they do not have any food colouring. Food that are blue, purple, or red in colour can affect the results of the procedure so it is best to avoid them
- Take laxatives. Your doctor will prescribe strong laxatives which you will need to take on the night prior to your colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy procedure in order to flush out all the waste from your digestive system. Anticipate that this process will involve having immense diarrhoea that will require you to make trips to the loo frequently. You may also experience other discomforts like bloating, cramping, nausea, and vomiting. Contact your doctor if these concerns become persistent.
- Pack extra clothes. There is a great chance that you may still experience diarrhoea on the day of your scheduled procedure. To avoid any accidents, you may want to wear an adult diaper on your way to the doctor. Having extra clothes on hand is also recommended in case the worst case scenario happens during your commute.
Preparing for a Fecal Immunochemical Test does not require any fasting or taking in medications. However, it is important that FIT is not done during a woman’s monthly period. Also, if you are suffering from bleeding due to haemorrhoids, it is best to skip this test until you are completely healed.
To know more about colorectal cancer screening, you can visit Alpine Surgical Practice.
Alpine Surgical Practice
3 Mount Elizabeth #17-16
+65 6589 8927