Understanding colorectal health begins by defining and knowing the core functions of the colorectum, along with being aware of the common conditions that might affect it.
The colorectum consists of the colon and the rectum, with its primary function being the absorption of water and electrolytes from undigested foods. It’s also responsible for the storage of waste until it’s expelled through the anus.
Here are some of the common diseases affecting the colorectum and anus:
Colorectal cancer arises from the uncontrolled proliferation of abnormal cells within the lining of the colon or rectum. This process typically begins as precancerous growths known as adenomatous polyps. Over time, some of these polyps can evolve into colorectal cancers.
Colloquially known as piles, haemorrhoids occur when the veins in the rectum and anus become inflamed and swollen. They can develop internally within the rectum (internal haemorrhoids) or under the skin around the anus (external haemorrhoids).
Diverticulitis is a condition that arises when diverticula, small pouches that can form in the wall of the colon, become inflamed or infected. These pouches are typically asymptomatic, a condition known as diverticulosis. When the diverticula become inflamed, it results in diverticulitis.
One common myth is that only older individuals can develop colorectal cancer. While age is a risk factor, it is not the sole determinant. The following are some of the risk factors for colorectal cancer:
Statistics show that while colorectal cancer is more common in older individuals, an increasing number of younger individuals are diagnosed.
Contrary to this myth, many colorectal conditions can be asymptomatic, particularly in their early stages.
Regular screenings and check-ups can help detect colorectal conditions early, before the onset of pain or other symptoms.
While a high-fibre diet can contribute to overall colorectal health, it cannot prevent all colorectal diseases. Fibre aids in maintaining healthy digestion by softening the stool, decreasing transit time, and reducing the risk of constipation and diverticulosis. Again, other contributing factors may result in colorectal diseases. This may include genetics and other lifestyle factors.
Although colorectal cancer is a serious condition, it is not an automatic death sentence, particularly with early detection and recent advancements in treatment.
The following treatments have been proven to treat colorectal cancer:
Early detection significantly increases the chances of successful treatment and survival.
Even without symptoms, regular screenings should be part of your routine checkup. These colorectal screenings make it easier to detect colorectal diseases at their early stage, preventing progression.
Screenings typically involve colonoscopy or a fecal occult blood test and should start at age 50 or earlier for those with higher risk.
Maintain colorectal health through the following:
Furthermore, regular medical check-ups and screenings help in the early detection of colorectal conditions. Seek medical advice if you experience changes in bowel habits, rectal bleeding, persistent abdominal discomfort, or unexplained weight loss.
Understanding the realities of colorectal health allows for proactive health management. Debunking these myths empowers us with the knowledge to take better care of our colorectal health.
If you have further queries or wish to book an appointment, please do not hesitate to contact our clinic. With accurate information and regular medical care, maintaining colorectal health is achievable.
Schedule an appointment with Dr Sim Hsien Lin, our experienced colorectal specialist at SOG Health.
Consultant General Surgeon (Colorectal Surgery)