ONE of the most common forms of cancer in Malaysia is colorectal cancer (CRC), which is just as dangerous as other forms of cancer and one of the primary causes of death in the country, affecting both men and women indiscriminately.
Although hereditary factors can lead to CRC, a vast majority of recorded cases are attributed to poor lifestyle choices, including the insufficient consumption of fruits and vegetables, a lack of exercise or physical activity, overeating red meat and, of course, the use of tobacco and alcohol.
Similar to the other forms of cancers, CRC is best treated in its early stages, meaning it has to be detected early. This begins by properly recognising the symptoms so that a doctor can be consulted as soon as something seems amiss, particularly if several symptoms are present.
It should be noted that CRC is treatable when it is diagnosed early.
Signs and symptoms
1. Unexplained weight loss
If you are not trying to lose weight but there is a drastic shift in weight loss, it is best to speak to a doctor immediately, as this could be a symptom of CRC. Cancer cells not only use up a lot of the body’s energy supply, it also causes the immune system to go into overdrive in an attempt to combat the disease, causing unexplained weight loss.
2. Weakness or fatigue
Those who are afflicted might also feel constantly tired due to their body fighting the cancer cells that have invaded their system. Fatigue could also be contributed to internal blood loss from the disease. Do keep in mind that cancer-related fatigue is one of the most common side effects of colorectal cancer, and it may come on suddenly but will not be relieved by rest or sleep.
3. Persistent cramps and pain
Abdominal discomfort is normal when it appears from time to time, but abdominal pain such as cramps, gas or pain that is persistent, severe and long-lasting may also be a sign of colorectal cancer that warrants a check-up.
4. Change in bowel habits
Personal toilet habits often reveal a lot about someone’s health. For instance, prolonged changes in regular toilet habits such as irregular bowel movements from frequency to consistency (diarrhoea or constipation), especially if there is no stress or change in the environment (pregnancy, travel, change of job), should not be taken lightly.
5. Blood in stool
Sometimes, red spots may appear but other times, stools appear very dark or black, a sign that blood has dried up. Blood in stool have various causes such as haemorrhoids or anal tear from straining against hard stools. In the case of CRC, it can signal a bigger problem in the digestive tract. Blood in stool may not be visible to the naked eye and can only be detected via a Stool Test Kit, also known as Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT).
Being attentive to what one’s body is saying is imperative in circumventing CRC, as colorectal cancer is treatable and curable when detected early. Knowledge is power and this will empower anyone to take the proper course of action by consulting a doctor as soon as possible, especially for those who think they are at risk.
Those that want to know more about their gut health can seek out the VITAGEN Digestion Programme under the brand’s gut health initiative, which has teamed up with local gut health experts, to develop an online gut health assessment that’s available to the public.
Additionally, a free Stool Test Kit can be requested. Also known as Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT), it is primarily used to check for hidden blood in the stool. This lab test device can be used to diagnose early signs of colorectal cancer.
For more information, visit vitagen.com.my/health-assessment/gut-health-assessment