In recent years, the prevalence of colorectal cancer across the world has been increasing dramatically1 every year, and patients who are diagnosed early only account for a small proportion of patients. Clinically, the early diagnosis rate of colorectal cancer is low, mainly because people are generally not aware of, or do not pay enough attention to the early signs of the disease.
Early signs of colon cancer
Irregular bowel movements
One of the signs of colon cancer is a persistent change in one’s bowel habits, such as constipation, diarrhoea, or a change in stool consistency. While there is no set rule on a “correct” frequency of defecation, sources have stated that anything regular between three times a day or three times a week is average.
Blood in Stool
Blood in the stool can be a sign that is easily overlooked. This can apply for individuals who suffer from haemorrhoids, where rectal bleeding is painless. It is therefore important for you to check your faeces regularly for blood. If the colour of your faeces is dark and red, or accompanied by pus, do seek medical assistance. This can happen as early as the first stage of cancer, so do seek help as soon as you can.
Weight loss or fatigue
If you are a healthy person who suddenly develops symptoms such as body weight loss, jaundice, body weakness or listlessness, you may want to look into these issues.
This is because colon cancer can increase the pressure of the entire abdominal cavity, resulting in intestinal obstruction, jaundice and other symptoms.
For many people, frequent urination can be overlooked as a health issue, especially amongst older people. However, urinary dysfunction can also be early symptoms of colon cancer. Patients may also experience burning sensations when urinating.
Here’s what you can do to reduce your risk of colon cancer
- Exercise regularly
No matter how busy life can get, do make time to stay active. In general, staying active can help you maintain healthy weight, which reduces the risk of several types of cancer. Exercise brings along many benefits – for the digestive system, it helps to increase the secretion of digestive juice, and moves food through the bowels faster. This means that anything harmful in our food waste (e.g. carcinogens) has less time in our digestive system, which can help reduce colon cancer.
- Reduce your intake of barbecued and fried food
When cooked in certain ways, food can be very delicious. However, some studies have shown that such food can exacerbate and advance colon conditions. While other studies have not found links between colon cancer and consumption of certain food, a healthy diet is indeed important in helping to reduce the risk of colon cancer – medical experts often recommend a diet low in animal fats and high in fruits and vegetables to reduce the risk of many types of cancer, including that of the colon.
- Get enough rest
With the fast pace of life today, many of us may have irregular or inadequate sleep and rest. However, chronic stress can wear down our defences against diseases.
So, while you are keeping up with a healthy lifestyle, do make it a point to get enough rest as well. It has become a habit for modern people to stay up late at night and stay
- Cut down on smoking and drinking
Many studies have linked colon cancer with active smoking, and that frequent smokers are more likely to develop colon cancer compared to non-smokers. Additionally, chronic drinking has also been reported as a risk factor for colon polypsis and cancer formation.
Signs and Risk Factors for Colon Cancer
- Being overweight.
- Sudden weight loss.
- Having cholecystitis, chronic appendicitis, or gallbladder and appendix surgery.
- Hematochezia, darkening, thick stool, habitual constipation
- Frequent diarrhoea for more than three consecutive months.
- Family history of colon cancer
- long-term blood in the stool
- Being above 40 years old
In general, many signs and symptoms can be caused by other problems. If you experience persistent symptoms, don’t hesitate to speak to a medical professional, as early detection can increase your chances of survival and improve your quality of life.