What is Colorectal Cancer?
Colorectal cancer is a cancer that develops from the cells of the large intestine. The large intestine consists of the colon and rectum. The colon makes up the majority of the large intestine that lies above the level of the hips. The rectum comprises the last 15 cm of the large intestine and lies within the pelvis.
Most cases of colorectal cancer begin as polyps - small, non-cancerous growths attached to the wall of the colon. Overtime, these polyps may become cancerous.
The risk of colorectal cancer is increased when there is:
- A family history of colorectal cancer and/or familial adenomatous polyposis or hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer
- A personal history of colorectal polyps or inflammatory bowel disease such as ulcerative colitis
In the early stages, people with colorectal cancer may not experience any symptoms. In the later stages, the common signs and symptoms include:
- A change in your bowel habits, including diarrhoea or constipation
- Rectal bleeding or blood in stools
- Persistent abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, gas or pain
- A feeling that your bowel doesn’t empty completely
- Weakness or fatigue
- Unexplained weight loss
Screening for colorectal cancer should begin from age 50 for people with no symptoms
Discuss with your doctor which screening test is best for you.
The recommended screening tests are:
Faecal Immunochemical Test
- Detects the presence of small amounts of blood (that may not be seen with the naked eye) in the stools
- Is safe, quick and easy to do
- Requires no change in diet prior test and can be done at home
- Should be done once a year
- You will need to collect two stool samples over two days for a more accurate result
- Uses a flexible tube (colonoscope) to look at the inner lining of the large intestine (colon and rectum)
- Takes about 30 minutes to complete
- Has to be done in a hospital by a trained doctor
- Should be done once every 10 years
Treatment methods for colorectal cancer could be applied alone or in combination depending on the stage and size of the tumour.
For colorectal cancer, surgery is the main type of treatment. The goal of surgical therapy is to remove the cancer from the colon or other organs that have been affected by the cancer.
Chemotherpay can be used to destroy cancer cells after surgery, to control tumour growth or to relieve symptoms of colorectal cancer.
Radiation therapy uses X-rays to kill any cancer cells that might remain after surgery or to shrink large tumours before an operation so that they can be removed more easily.