What is Colorectal Cancer?
Though the location of both cancers is different, colon and rectal cancer are often grouped together because they have many features in common. Colorectal cancer is common to both men and women and most patients are aged 50 or over when they are diagnosed. It is also the most common cancer affecting men and second most common cancer affecting women in Malaysia.
Both the colon and rectum are parts of the large intestine, as well as the final part of the body’s digestive system. During digestion, the colon helps to reabsorb fluids and process waste products from the body and prepare for its elimination.
Colorectal cancer often begins as a growth called a polyp or adenoma, a non-cancerous growth that may develop on the inner wall of the colon or rectum as people get older. If not treated or removed, a polyp can become a potentially life-threatening cancer.
Colorectal cancer first develops with few, if any, symptoms. The symptoms of colorectal cancer can be subtle. Symptoms to watch out for are:
- Abdominal pain and tenderness
- Blood in the stool
- Narrow stools
- Weight loss with no reason
- Change in your normal bowel habit
The symptoms of colorectal cancers are so subtle, that the first sign of the cancer is often a blood test showing a low red blood cell count due to bleeding in the digestive tract.
It is important to note that the symptoms mentioned above may be caused by other medical conditions. Many of these are much less serious than cancer, such as piles (haemorrhoids), infections or inflammatory bowel disease.