Health

Nip colorectal cancer in the bud

Colorectal cancer ranks high among the list of cancers here to affect both genders.

"Traditional signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer include a feeling of abdominal fullness or an 'incomplete emptying' after bowel movements; abdominal pain or cramping; a change in bowel patterns; and, of course, blood in the stool," said Dr Steven Tucker, medical oncologist at private healthcare clinic Tucker Medical.

GET SCREENED

The faecal occult blood test is a simple and non-invasive check for blood in the stools. You pass motion, collect a sample in a container and get it tested.

If you are not considered high-risk, go for a colonoscopy every 10 years.

It looks at the internal lining of the colon and rectum, and if required, carries out polyp removal or a biopsy at the same time.

The procedure, which takes 15 minutes, is painless as you will be lightly sedated.

It is wise to empty your bowels the night before your anal probe by drinking two litres of water laced with medication to induce diarrhoea.

LOWER YOUR RISK

Heavy drinkers are twice as likely to suffer from colorectal cancer compared to moderate and non-drinkers, so it is advisable to drink less alcohol.

Quitting smoking will also lower your risk of getting colorectal cancer.

Furthermore, regular smokers have a higher chance of death from colorectal cancer compared to non-smokers.

Eating less processed and fast food - which are high in fat - will help too, as studies have shown that the risk of developing colorectal cancer skyrockets when you are obese.

Exercising regularly can also reduce your risk by 20 per cent.

SEPARATE MYTH FROM FACT

"Colorectal cancer is a death sentence."

That is far from the truth - it is treatable and, in some cases, curable.

Even for patients with metastatic stage four colorectal cancer - which means it has spread beyond the colon - there are many treatments available to prolong life and maintain its quality.

"Colorectal cancer is a man's disease."

It is the second most frequent cancer among women here.

"Only old people get cancer."

The majority of cancers are diagnosed after the age of 55, but as many as 15 per cent of cancer cases here are detected earlier.

This article is adapted from Her World magazine.

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