Colon Cancer Treatment and Rectal Cancer Surgery

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Overview

Colorectal cancer is the most common cancer in developed countries. Amongst males, it is the most common cancer. Amongst females, it is the second most common, after breast cancer.

Symptoms of Colon and Rectal Cancer

In the early stages of colorectal cancer, there are sometimes no symptoms, or the symptoms appear as mild and vague. By the time symptoms appear, the cancer may already be at an advanced stage.

Some symptoms are:

  • Change in bowel habits – more frequent, constipation, or irregular habits
  • Bleeding in stools
  • Inability to completely empty the bowels
  • Stools becoming thin
  • Recurrent or persistent abdominal pain and/or bloating
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Weakness or feeling easily tired
  • Anaemia

When to Seek Colon and Rectal Cancer Treatment?

  • If any of the above symptoms occur, it is prudent to seek medical attention, so that assessment can be made.
  • As a large proportion of patients are asymptomatic, international guidelines recommend screening of the colon for individuals aged 50 and above, even if there are no symptoms or family history.

When to Seek Treatment

  • If any of the above symptoms occur, it is prudent to seek medical attention, so that assessment can be made.
  • As a large proportion of patients are asymptomatic, international guidelines recommend screening of the colon for individuals aged 50 and above, even if there are no symptoms or family history.

Diagnosis

The ideal test is a colonoscopy. This allows visualization of the cancer and identification of its location. Tissue biopsy can also be obtained to confirm the diagnosis.

Following the diagnosis of cancer, CT or PET scans may be performed to check if the cancer has spread. For cancer of the rectum, MRI or ultrasound may be done to decide if chemotherapy or radiotherapy is required.

Colon/Rectal Cancer Surgery and Treatment Options

The appropriate treatment will depend on the stage of the cancer. The ideal treatment is surgical removal of the cancer, as well as the lymph nodes around the cancer. Currently many of the operations to treat colorectal cancer can be performed by laparoscopic methods ( keyhole surgery).
Other treatment methods for colorectal cancer include chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
The type of colon and rectal cancer surgery depends on the location of the cancer.

Risk Factors

  • Family history of colorectal cancer
  • Personal history of polyps or colorectal cancer
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Older age – most patients tend to be older than 60 years
  • Family history of genetic syndromes, such as familial adenomatous polyposis, Lynch syndrome, etc
  • Chronic inflammation of the colon, such as ulcerative colitis

Consult Our Doctor

Dr Jane Tan Jye Yng
Colorectal & General Surgeon

MBBS (Singapore), M.Med (Surgery), MRCS (Edin), FAMS (Surgery)

Colon and Rectal Cancer Surgery Treatment FAQs

Yes, colon cancer is treatable in the early stages. Treatment of colon cancer in the early stages usually produces good results. Colorectal cancer screening is therefore important, so that cancer can be diagnosed in the early stages, before any symptoms appear.
Treatment for colorectal cancer varies, depending on the stage of the disease. The common treatment modalities are surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Chemotherapy can be used in different stages of colon cancer. The decision to have chemotherapy and the type of chemotherapy given is made after consultation with a medical oncologist.
The chances of survival are high, especially with disease in the early stages.
No, this is not always the case. Majority of patients do not need to use a colostomy bag.
There may be some minor changes to the bowel pattern. For the large majority of patients, good quality of life can be expected after recovery from surgery.

No, they do not. These are 2 different diseases. However, they may both cause rectal bleeding, and it is easy to assume that the bleeding is due to haemorrhoids, whilst it may actually be from rectal cancer.

It is possible, but not definite. Some stools may also appear thinner than usual.

Common symptoms include bleeding during or after a bowel movement, change in bowel movement pattern, change in stool appearance, frequent sensation of wanting to have a bowel movement but with no stools being passed, passage of mucus.

To definitively diagnose rectal cancer, the best test is a colonoscopy, as the cancer and the rest of the colon can be clearly seen, and biopsies can be taken to determine the type of cancer.

In the early stages, very good outcomes from treatment can be expected. If the disease is advanced, results of treatment will be poorer.

The traditional approach would be an open procedure. However, minimally invasive procedures with much smaller incisions are now widely performed. The affected part of the colon is removed together with the draining lymph nodes, and healthy bowel is joined back to allow bowel movement. 

Not necessarily so, however, this very much depends on the extent of disease for that individual.

These are complementary treatment modalities. Surgery is the mainstay of treatment. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy, where applicable, provide good adjuncts that can improve the results remarkably.

Not necessarily so. The possibility of a colostomy bag is present, and this depends on the individual’s disease profile. However, many such stomas are temporary and not permanent.

Very much so, especially if the disease is diagnosed in the early stages, the results may be quite remarkable.

Colon Cancer Treatment FAQs

Avoiding standing still for long periods will reduce the pressure in the veins in the legs. For people who need to stand for long periods at work, wearing compression stockings will reduce the pressure build up in the legs.

The ultrasound will be done of the legs from the thigh to the calves. Please wear or bring along a pair of shorts to change into for the scan.

Have a question or need a second opinion?