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Early Screening Can Prevent Colorectal Cancer

Cancer is responsible for approximately a third of all mortality. It is common to hear about a friend or relative diagnosed with cancer of different parts of the body, namely prostate, breast, lung, colon among many others. Studies reveal that 10-15% of cancers occur due to inherited genetic defects and 85% of cancers due to poor lifestyle choices and other factors.  

The risk of developing colorectal cancer can be reduced by maintaining healthy body weight, regular exercise and physical activity, limiting the intake of red and processed meats, eating more fruit and vegetables, reducing alcohol intake and by not smoking.

What is Colorectal Cancer (CRC)?

CRC or colorectal cancer is cancer that starts in the colon or rectum, often with a similar presentation of signs and symptoms. Cancer starts when cells in the body start to grow out of control and in a disordered manner. The cancer cells grow continually making new cells, crowding the existing normal cells. This causes problems in the part of the body where cancer began. The cancer cells if left unchecked, can spread to other parts of the body.

Most cases of CRC develop from a tiny growth known as “a polyp”. Some polyps can become cancerous over a 2 to 10 year period. These are known as benign precancerous polyps. If they are identified at this early stage, they can be removed during a colonoscopy (a telescope test to examine the lining of the rectum and colon). Removing these precancerous polyps prevents colorectal cancer from developing. Typically, CRC occurs in people over the age of 50. However, over the past few decades, the age of presentation of patients with CRC has fallen such that it is now not uncommon to see patients being diagnosed more frequently in their 30’s and 40’s. This has probably occured as a result of a diet high in animal fat and protein, poor lifestyle choices such as obesity, lack of exercise, excessive alcohol consumption and in some cases, people with a family history of colorectal cancer.

Globally, colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third most commonly diagnosed malignancy.

When do you need to get checked?

You may experience one or more or all the symptoms below. Please note that having these symptoms does not necessarily mean that you have cancer. It makes sense to have these investigated by colonoscopy to determine clarity about your health of colon and rectum.

· Blood or mucus in your stools

· Urgency

· A feeling of incomplete emptying

· A change in bowel habit, i.e. diarrhoea , loose stools, constipation 

· Abdominal discomfort i.e. gas, stomach pain, bloating, fullness or cramps

· Unexplained weight loss

· Constant tiredness or lethargy

Regular Colonoscopy Screening Can Prevent Colorectal Cancer

The risk of colorectal cancer increases with age; 91% of cases are diagnosed in adults aged 50 and over. However, since 2003, the incidence of colorectal cancer is increasing among adults under 50. Among younger adults, colorectal cancer cases diagnosed has increased by 2% every year and has now risen to 15%.

Screening is the process of looking for cancer or polyps in people who display no symptoms of the disease. Regular colorectal screening is one of the most powerful tools against the disease. With screening, doctors can find and remove polyps before they have the chance to turn into cancer.

Colonic polyps are exceptionally common and present in 95% of people over the age of 30 years. There are two broad categories of benign polyps. Non-precancerous which, if left indefinitely, are said never to become cancers. The other group of benign polyps are the adenomatous or precancerous polyps (precursor to cancer) can be found in up to 27% of patients. If found, they can be easily removed during a colonoscopy. Besides, being screened at the recommended frequency increases the likelihood of detection at an earlier stage, if cancer is present. When detected in the early stages, it is more likely to be cured, the treatment is less extensive, and recovery is faster.

Colonoscopy screening for adults aged 40 and above should be done every 3 years beginning at age 40 until 75 years of age. It is highly recommended that you first get screened at age 40 or earlier, if you have a family history of the CRC or adenomatous polyps in a first degree relative i.e. parents, siblings or children.

What is Colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy can be performed as either an outpatient or inpatient procedure, although the latter is preferable as it is safer. Colonoscopy examines the inside of the large intestine (colon and rectum). A thin, flexible tube with video imaging capability called a colonoscope is used to examine the lining of the bowel for abnormalities. Colonoscopy is commonly used to evaluate any of the gastrointestinal symptoms listed above.

Specialized Medical Services in Hong Kong

Hong Kong Surgical Specialists, as the name suggests, offer specialized and custom treatments and services to provide the most suitable solution and medical advice to the patients. The services offered include screenings, diagnostics, therapeutic services. Colonoscopy and gastroscopy is performed by medical and surgical gastroeneterology specialists. Book an appointment today to take a health screening and an evaluation of any gastrointestinal symptoms you may or may not have to maximise your health and prevent disease. Prevention is better than cure.

If you want to learn more about a colonoscopy and/or get a medical advice, please make an appointment with a specialist doctor at 2715 4577, via email or at


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