Colorectal Cancer Early Detection Strategies in Singapore
Colorectal cancer is a formidable adversary, but with early detection and proactive measures, it’s a battle that you can win. This comprehensive guide aims to empower Singaporeans with knowledge about colorectal cancer, the importance of screening and the actionable steps they can take to safeguard their colorectal health.
Understanding Screening: A Vital Step in Colorectal Cancer Prevention
Screening involves looking for cancer before any symptoms appear. Detecting cancer early dramatically improve treatment success rates. Doctor would usually recommend screenings based on age, family history, and lifestyle. Remember that a screening test doesn’t imply a cancer diagnosis; it’s a preventative measure.
Colorectal Cancer: The Basics
Colorectal cancer originates in the colon or rectum’s tissues, part of the digestive system. The digestive system breaks down nutrients and eliminates waste from the body. Colorectal cancer ranks the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths globally. While various factors influence the risk of developing colorectal cancer, early detection and prevention are critical.
Why Early Detection Matters
Early detection offers a significant advantage when it comes to colorectal cancer. It’s essential to emphasise that the earlier cancer is found, the more treatable it is. This is why regular screenings are recommended, even if you feel healthy.
Types of Colorectal Cancer Screening Tests
There are various screening tests available to detect colorectal cancer. These include:
- Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT): This test checks the stool for traces of blood not visible to the naked eye.
Two types are used:
- Guaiac FOBT – which detects colour changes on a particular card.
- Immunochemical FOBT (FIT) – which uses antibodies to detect blood. If blood is found, further testing is recommended.
- Sigmoidoscopy: A procedure involving a thin, flexible tube inserted into the rectum and lower colon to examine for polyps and cancer. It’s a vital tool for early detection.
- Colonoscopy: Similar to sigmoidoscopy, but covers the entire colon. It’s performed using a longer tube and offers the advantage of removing polyps and taking tissue samples for examination.
- Virtual Colonoscopy: This involves creating detailed images of the colon using X-rays. While it’s less invasive, any abnormalities require further testing.
- DNA Stool Test: This test analyses stool DNA for genetic changes that could indicate colorectal cancer.
Understanding the Risks of Screening
While screenings are crucial, it’s essential to be aware of the potential risks:
- False-Negative Test Results: Sometimes, even with cancer, the test might show normal results, leading to delayed diagnosis and treatment.
- False-Positive Test Results: The test might suggest cancer when none exists, causing undue anxiety and necessitating further testing.
- Complications from Screening Tests: Procedures like colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy carry minimal risk, including tearing of the colon lining and bleeding.
The Power of Colorectal Cancer Screening
Colorectal cancer screenings save lives. Detecting polyps and cancer at an early stage can prevent the progression of the disease and increase the chances of successful treatment.
When to Get Screened
According to local guidelines, commencing at age 50, screening is recommended for individuals without risk factors. Screening should be initiated for those with heightened risk before turning 50, depending on the specific risk factor(s) at play.
Choosing the Right Screening Test
Different screening tests have pros and cons; your personal preferences, medical history, and risk factors should influence your choice. Options include stool tests (FOBT, FIT, and FIT-DNA), sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy and virtual colonoscopy.
In the ongoing battle against colorectal cancer, new research has unveiled compelling evidence highlighting the impact of diet and lifestyle choices on cancer risk. A recent report, a breakthrough in the field, has provided insights into the role of wholegrains in reducing the risk of colorectal cancer. This article delves into these findings and sheds light on other factors influencing your risk of developing this disease.
The Wholegrain Advantage
Research has unearthed a critical link between wholegrain consumption and colorectal cancer risk reduction for the first time. The report revealed that consuming 3 servings, totalling 90g, of wholegrains daily, such as brown rice or wholemeal bread, can lead to a 17% reduction in the risk of colorectal cancer. But how do wholegrains achieve this?
One mechanism is accelerating the transit time of potential carcinogens through the bowel, reducing the duration they come into contact with the cells lining the bowel. This underscores the preventive potential of wholegrains and highlights the importance of dietary choices in shaping cancer risk.
Unveiling Risk Factors
The report doesn’t just stop at the positive aspects of prevention. It also reinforces certain well-known risk factors that increase the likelihood of colorectal cancer:
- Processed Meat Consumption: Indulging in processed meats like bacon or salami heightens the risk of colorectal cancer.
- Excessive Red Meat Intake: Consuming more than 500g of cooked red meat per week, such as beef or pork, increases risk.
- Alcohol Consumption: Consuming two or more alcoholic drinks daily, equivalent to two glasses of wine or two-spirit measures, elevates the risk.
- Weight Management: Being overweight or obese correlates with colorectal cancer risk.
On the flip side, the report further substantiated the positive effects of physical activity. Regular physical activity, like cycling to work or using the stairs, has been found to decrease the risk of colon cancer. This serves as a reminder of the multifaceted impact of our lifestyle choices on our overall health.
Taking Practical Steps Towards Prevention for Singaporeans
- Embrace Positive Dietary Changes: Reduce red and processed meat consumption research indicates that consuming red and processed meat can elevate your chances of developing bowel cancer.
These categories encompass beef, lamb, pork, goat, sausages, bacon, cured meats and reformed meat products. If your daily intake exceeds 90g of red or processed meat, aim to cut it down to no more than 70g. To put this into perspective, one back bacon rasher equals around 25g; a single sausage is about 60g, a medium pork chop weighs approximately 120g and a medium steak clocks in at about 115g.
- Increase Dietary Fibre: Intake fibre plays a vital role in a healthy diet by supporting digestion, preventing constipation and reducing the risk of bowel cancer. Add wholegrain cereals, wholewheat pasta, oats, beans, chickpeas and lentils to boost your fibre intake.
- For adults, daily consumption of at least 30g is recommended. For example, two slices of wholemeal toasted bread provide 5.6g of fibre, while a baked jacket potato with the skin on delivers 4.7g.
- Stay Hydrated: Aim to consume 6-8 glasses of fluids each day. Water, low-fat milk, sugar-free drinks, tea and coffee count toward hydration. While fruit juices and smoothies also contribute to fluid intake, limit their consumption to a combined total of 150ml per day, considering their sugar content. Swap out sugary soft drinks for diet, sugar-free or no added sugar alternatives to effortlessly reduce sugar intake.
- Maintain a Healthy Body Weight: Carrying excess weight, especially around the waist, increases your susceptibility to bowel cancer. It is estimated that 11 out of 100 bowel cancer cases are linked to unhealthy body weight in the UK. Checking your Body Mass Index (BMI) provides a simple gauge of your weight’s appropriateness for your height.
- Embrace Physical Activity: Engaging in regular physical activity diminishes your risk of developing bowel cancer. An active lifestyle aids in maintaining a healthy weight and promoting overall well-being.
Adults over 19 should strive for daily activity, with at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise spread across a week. This can translate to 30 minutes of brisk walking five times a week, which can be extended to 60 minutes as fitness improves. If you’re new to physical activity, begin with 10 minutes and gradually increase. The guidelines also advise including strength training twice a week. Apart from being physically active, especially for those over 65, minimising prolonged periods of sedentary behaviour is essential.
- Limit Alcohol Consumption: Alcohol consumption is linked to various cancers, including bowel cancer. Roughly 6 out of 100 bowel cancer cases in the UK are associated with alcohol intake. To cut down on alcohol, incorporating several drink-free days into your week is a practical approach.
- Quit Smoking: Around 7% of bowel cancer cases in the UK are attributed to smoking. The risk escalates with the number of cigarettes smoked daily. Smokers are more likely to develop non-cancerous growths (polyps) in the bowel, which could turn cancerous if left untreated.
Empowering Yourself for a Healthier Future
Colorectal cancer’s prevalence is a concern, but we possess strong evidence that underscores the power of lifestyle changes. By embracing a diet rich in whole grains, moderating red and processed meat consumption, limiting alcohol intake and staying active, you take proactive steps towards fortifying your body’s defences against colorectal cancer.
It’s not about drastic shifts but gradual, sustainable changes that accumulate over time. With this knowledge, you can make choices supporting your colorectal health, creating a foundation for a brighter, cancer-free future.
At MHC, we recognize the power of early diagnosis, enabling timely intervention and improving disease management outcomes. From the initial consultation to follow-ups, our program will continue to help patients control and manage weight, which is a great way to avoid colorectal cancer.
You may book an appointment in Amara Clinic or contact our Corporate HQ for questions and enquiries about personal and corporate healthcare programmes, including Executive Health Screenings, GP Services, or Weight management programmes. Staying healthy and active helps promote a healthy colon.