Cancer kills nearly 10 million people in the world each year and is the leading cause of death in Singapore with approx. 6000 Singaporeans losing their lives due to the disease.There are a few cancers, however, that are preventable – one of which is colon cancer.
An early sign of colon cancer is the presence of abnormal growths, called polyps, inside the colon or rectum. One way to prevent colon cancer is to have an accomplished surgeon perform polyps removal, such as Dr. Aaron Poh at Alpine surgical practice.
What is colon cancer?
Colorectal cancer, also called colon cancer, is a disease in which the cells located in the colon or rectum start to grow uncontrollably and spread to other parts of the body. An early sign of this is when the inside of the colon or rectum starts to form abnormal growths called polyps. To find these polyps, a pre-screening test is done to examine the interior of the colon for their presence, such as a colonoscopy.
If left unchecked, these polyps grow and become tumors, which can spread into the rest of your body. When these cancer cells invade other organ systems, they will affect their vital functions and will hinder the body’s natural processes. This increases greatly the likelihood of death.
Thanks to the advances in medical science, colorectal cancer is now a preventable disease. With an early colonoscopy, it is possible to detect the presence of colonic polyps before they become cancerous. Getting the polyps removed is an essential step in the prevention of colon cancer.
What are the symptoms of colonic polyps?
Oftentimes, if you have colon polyps there aren’t symptoms. The best way to know about their presence is through a colonoscopy or some other pre-screening method. However, if you experience any of the following then there’s a bigger chance that you have colonic polyps:
- If there is blood when you poop, then there’s a risk that you might have colon polyps that have bled.
- If your poop is black or has streaks of red, which may indicate the presence of blood – blood in your poop can mean that there is some bleeding inside your colon, which can be from a polyp
- Having diarrhea or constipation that lasts for more than 7 days – colon polyps can mess with your digestion
- Abdominal pain or discomfort – polyps can cause some belly pain if it bleeds
- Shortness of breath or fatigue – colon polyps may bleed, making your body lose iron which can cause fatigue
How are colonic polyps detected?
The presence of colonic polyps can be discovered early through a pre-screening test, such as a colonoscopy. During the test, the doctor will examine the interior walls of the colon and rectum and search for any abnormal growths or polyps. He/she will take note of the location of each polyp in preparation for future surgery for their removal. The number and size of the polyps will also be recorded, and the doctor will usually take a small sample of the polyps to have it tested whether it is cancerous or not.
Depending on the results of the test, your doctor may recommend you have your polyps removed during a follow-up colonoscopy (for small-sized polyps) or through surgery (for larger polyps that cannot be removed during a colonoscopy). The presence of polyps means that there is a chance that they may grow again at a later date. This will then require multiple follow-up polyps removal treatments.
What causes colonic polyps to form?
Until now, there is still no definite answer to that question. It is a normal process for cells to grow as time passes or as a response to a certain stimulus. However, if this growth happens without any reason behind it, then colon cells can eventually grow too much and become polyps.
Although the exact cause for this abnormal growth is unknown, doctors and scientists are able to identify risk factors that make it more likely for a person to have colon polyps, such as:
- Being age 45 or older
- Having a high BMI (are overweight or obese)
- Frequent smoking
- Having type 2 diabetes
- Have had colon polyps before
- Having an inflammatory bowel disease
How are colonic polyps removed?
If your colonic polyps are determined to be cancerous, or if they are too large that they need to be removed, then your doctor will recommend you undergo a polyps removal procedure. Depending on the size of the polyps, you may either have them removed during a colonoscopy or through a more invasive treatment through surgery. The procedure time will depend on which treatment you are getting as well as the number of polyps present within your colon and rectum.
Another option for those that have genetic conditions is to have part or all of your colon removed through surgery. This is usually done for rare, complicated cases and are a last-ditch treatment if there are too many polyps or if they grow too quickly. Even without a colon, a person can still digest their food and many people have lived full lives without their large intestine. This is because the main role of the colon is to absorb water and electrolytes to make your stool more compact. The small intestine is the primary organ that deals with absorbing nutrients and energy from your food.
How do you prevent colonic polyps from forming?
Prevention is better than cure, and although it is impossible to completely prevent colonic polyps from forming, there are multiple ways to lower the risk of them appearing. These include the ff. health habits:
- Keeping your weight at a healthy, normal level
- Eat a high-fiber diet, which can include fruits, vegetables, nuts, lentils, and peas
- Avoid or control your consumption of red meat, processed and fatty food
- Follow a healthy lifestyle with constant physical activity and exercise
- If your family has a history of colon polyps or cancer, talk to your doctor and get a pre-screening procedure such as a colonoscopy.
Alpine Surgical Practice – Dr Aaron Poh, Consultant Surgeon
3 Mount Elizabeth
#17-16 Medical Centre
Phone: +65 6589 8929
Whatsapp: +65 8875 0080