Colon Cancer: Symptoms & Treatment

What Is Colorectal Cancer?

Colorectal cancer is cancer of the large bowel. In Malaysia, it is one of the top 3 most common cancers for men and women.

Like all cancers, it is dangerous because it can spread to involve other organs in other parts of the body. Once the cancer has spread, it may not be possible to remove it completely with surgery.

Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal (large bowel) cancer may be silent and display no symptoms. However, most patients would have had some symptoms at one time or other.

Here are some symptoms to check for:

  • Passing blood in the stools
  • Recent change in bowel habit – constipation or diarrhea
  • Difficulty passing motions
  • Passing slime or mucus in the stools
  • Unexplained abdominal pain
  • Abdominal mass

If you have any of these symptoms, or if you have a strong family history of bowel cancer you should have your bowel checked with a colonoscopy.

What If I Don’t Have Pain?

If you don’t experience pain that does not mean you are OK.

Although cancers can cause pain, very often we see cancers without any pain at all. In fact, painless rectal bleeding is often a sign of colorectal cancer.

Am I At Risk For Colorectal Cancer?
  • Age – more common in middle aged & elderly
  • Gender – more common in males
  • Diet – more common if diet is rich in red meats or in low fibre diets
  • Genetic – family history of colorectal cancer
  • Polyps – Polyps are now regarded as having the potential to become cancerous (see my explanation on polyps)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease – ulcerative colitis & Crohn’s disease (uncommon in Malaysia)
How Should I Change My Diet?

I get this question all the time. My advice is, take less red meat and consume more fruits and vegetables.

However, diets are weak risk factors for colorectal cancer. In other words, changing your diet may not necessarily prevent you from getting colorectal cancer.

Can I Take Preventive Medicine?

You can.

Some studies suggests that Aspirin and Celecoxib can reduce the risk of getting colorectal cancer but this is only recommended for those who are at high risk.

Colorectal Cancer Treatment

Colorectal cancer treatment depends on several things including what stage the cancer has reached as well as whether other organs are involved.

Surgery is one of the main ways of treating colorectal cancer and if it can be removed safely, it should be removed. Surgery is often combined with radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

This is not a one-size-fits all treatment plan. The treatment plan can be complicated and varies from patient to patient, especially if other organs are involved. On the whole, as doctors, we do tailor the treatment according to your needs as a patient.

If you suspect something amiss or have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer and need someone to advise or discuss your options either for medication, management plan or surgery, I may be able to help.

A Thank You is Simply Inadequate

Yes, I did not forget to thank Mr. Khoo Saye Thiam who effectively removed the cancerous colon bothering me. Yes, I repeated that each time I bumped into him subsequent to my operation. Mr. Khoo is a surgeon who listens and understands his patients well. He has done all he could to put away the first huge problematical part of my medical journey to provide me with the necessary foundation and confidence to engage with my other medical challenges.

Dr. P. S. Yeoh