We speak with Dr Julian Ong Kian Peng (Consultant General and Colorectal Surgeon) to understand the signs and symptoms of Colon Cancer.

We started by asking Dr Julian Ong, “What is colorectal cancer?”

Dr Julian Ong explained that colorectal cancer is an in-growth or a lump or a tumour in the colon. The colon or rectum are parts of our digestive system and together they’re known as the large intestines or bowels.

“The colon functions to absorb large quantities of water and nutrients from undigested food products as they pass through the colon. The rectum is at the end of the colon, a place to store stools before they are expelled from your body”, added Dr Julian Ong.

What we know is that Colorectal cancer is actually the most common cancer, mounting in importance today. It is the most common cancer in Singapore in men, surpassing lung cancer and the second only to breast cancer in women. The incidence rates of colon cancer still increasing and particularly in patients younger than the age of 50.

What would the symptoms be?

Dr Julian Ong: Symptoms that may suggest the presence of colorectal cancer is blood or mucus in the bowel movements. Unexplained weight loss or loss of appetite, if you have complaints of abdominal pain or bloating if you find that your bowel habits have changed such as constipation or diarrhoea in recent times, a sensation of incomplete evacuation of your bowels. If you have a history of anaemia or sudden fatigue that you can’t explain.

“You yourself feel a lump in your abdomen, or in the anus, or a doctor that you’ve seen feels a lump in their abdomen or in the anus”, elaborated Dr Julian.

Dr Julian added that so many of symptoms of colorectal cancer are similar to those symptoms caused by piles or haemorrhoids.

Dr Julian said Piles or haemorrhoids, are a very common benign condition in our population, and this might lead to a delayed diagnosis of colorectal cancer. For this reason, Dr Julian Ong encourages patients to be screened by a colorectal surgeon before attributing the symptoms to Piles.

Risk factors

Dr Julian believes that there are lots one can do to help lower one’s risk of developing Colorectal Cancer.

“Firstly and I think most importantly is do regular screening, especially if you have a significant family history or if you have a personal history of Polyps or Inflammatory bowel disease, or if you’re above the age of 50, or if you have had Colorectal cancer before”, said Dr Julian Ong.

Further, Dr Ong recommends that one should have a first Colonoscopy to screen for colorectal cancer at the age of 50 and then thereafter a yearly Fecal occult blood test.

“Colonoscopy can also be considered earlier in ages 40 to 45 to detect Polyps in the precancerous stage before they become Colorectal cancer,” added Dr Ong

Secondly, Dr Julian Ong advises that one’s diet has to have plenty of fibre, fruits, vegetables and good quality carbohydrates, and to keep consumption of red meat and processed meats down to a minimum or cut them out altogether, as well as to avoid or reduce your consumption of fried or barbecued foods.

In addition, Dr Julian advised to pay attention to saturated fats in your diet and to switch to good quality fats, such as avocado, olive oil, fish oils and nuts, as well as avoiding excessive alcohol consumption and smoking.

Thirdly, Dr Julian believes in lifestyle changes, especially in one’s exercise routines.

“Regular and moderate exercise has been shown to have a significant impact on lowering your risk of developing colorectal cancer. You should try and keep your body weight healthy. Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing not only Colorectal cancers but many of the cancers as well,” elaborated Dr Julian Ong Kian Peng.

Dr Julian Ong’s practice address is;

HC Endoscopy & Piles Centre

Blk 710A, Ang Mo Kio Ave 8,

#01-2629, Singapore 561710

www.drjulianong.sg

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