Colorectal cancer is the second most common cancer in Malaysia. 1 in 20 persons have a lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer. In Malaysia, colorectal cancer is the most common cancer in men, and the second most common cancer in women. Although it is most common in those above 60 years old, colorectal cancer is increasingly seen among those above 40 years old.
What Are the Risk Factors for Colorectal Cancer?
- Old age
- Presence of polyps in the large intestine
- Family history of colorectal cancer
- Diet high in red meat and processed food, and low in fibre
What Are the Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer?
Early stage colorectal cancer is likely to be symptom-free and can be identified through active screening for colorectal cancer.
Some signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer are:
- Blood in the stool
- Change in bowel pattern
- Loss of appetite
- Unintentional weight loss
- Abdominal pain
What Are the Screening Methods for Colorectal Cancer?
Colorectal cancer is most effectively screened through faecal occult blood test (iFOBT) and colonoscopy.
iFOBT is a lab test that can identify blood in stool that are not seen by the naked eye. Everyone above the age of 50 are encouraged to do iFOBT once a year.
Colonoscopy has been proven over time to be very effective in screening, diagnosing and preventing colorectal cancer. The procedure is performed under sedation and involves the doctor examining the entire colon. If precancerous polyps are found, they can be removed during the colonoscopy thus preventing them from developing into cancer.
People with symptoms of colorectal cancer should undertake a colonoscopy, as should those who fall into the high-risk group.
How Is Colorectal Cancer Diagnosed?
- CT scan
- MRI scan
What Are the Treatment Options for Colorectal Cancer?
Most colorectal cancers will have to be removed with surgery. This can be done by a laparoscopic approach (key-hole surgery) or in an open operation. Depending on the stage of the cancer, the patient may require pre-operative or post-operative chemo-radiotherapy. Surgery, combined with appropriate chemoradiotherapy, offers more than 90% cure rate in stage one disease. Advance and recurrent colorectal cancer patients may be treated with heated chemotherapy during the operation, a procedure called Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy.