Patient Education

Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal (bowel) cancer can often be found at an early stage when treatment is more likely to cure the disease. There are also some steps you can take to help reduce your risk of bowel cancer.

What is the Bowel?

  • The bowel is the longest part of the digestive tract (the gut). It has 2 sections:
    • The small bowel: where food is absorbed
    • The large bowel: where water and salts are absorbed.
  • The large bowel is made up of 2 parts: the colon and the rectum.

What is Colorectal Cancer?

  • Colorectal cancer is a growth of malignant cells that usually starts in the lining of the large bowel. It can grow there for a long time before spreading to other parts of the body.
  • This is why the earlier a bowel cancer is found, the better the chance of curing it. There is a 90% chance of cure if the cancer is found at an early stage.

Who is at risk of Colorectal Cancer?

  • Colorectal cancer can affect any person at any age, but the risk is greater if you:
    • Are over the age of 40
    • Have strong family history of colorectal cancer
    • Have had extensive inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s colitis) for more than 8 years
  • Talk to your doctor about your risk of colorectal cancer if you have any of the above risk factors.

What are the symptoms of Colorectal Cancer?

Not all colorectal cancers show symptoms, but you should see your doctor if you notice any of the following:

  • Bleeding from your back passage or any sign of blood after a bowel motion.
  • A persistent change in bowel habits: for example, loose bowel motions, increased constipation, and/or needing to go to the toilet more than usual.
  • The feeling that your bowel does not empty completely.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Loss of weight for no obvious reason.
  • Unexplained tiredness, weakness or breathlessness. These may be due to anemia caused by lack of iron. This type of anemia can be a result of colorectal cancer.

What are the screening tests for Colorectal Cancer?

  • Colorectal cancer screening involves testing people without any obvious symptoms.
  • There are 2 ways to do screening for colorectal cancer: colonoscopy and stool test called Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT).
  • It is recommended that colonoscopy is done every 10 years or FIT every 2 years for both men and women from 40 years of age and above.


  • Colonoscopy is a test that allows your doctor to look inside your bowel using a thin, flexible tube with small camera at the tip called colonoscope.
  • Colonoscopy helps find colon polyps (abnormal growths rising from the lining of the large intestine) or tumors. It can also be used to collect tissue samples for testing and remove abnormal growths.

Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT)

  • The fecal immunochemical test (FIT) is a simple test that detects hidden blood in the stool (blood which cannot be seen with your own eyes). The samples are collected at home and then sent to a laboratory for testing.

How to reduce the risk of Colorectal Cancer?

You can help to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer by:

  • Eating a healthy diet, including plenty of vegetables and fruit and only small amounts of animal fat
  • Maintaining a healthy body weight
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Avoid all types of tobacco.

By following these advices, it does not mean that you will never get colorectal cancer, but it can reduce your risk and has other health benefits too.