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Skipping your Colonoscopy? Think again.

Colorectal cancer is one of the commonest cancers in Singapore. In fact, colorectal cancer is responsible for approximately 1 in 6 of all cancer diagnoses in Singaporean men and 1 in 7 in Singaporean women, with Chinese men and women being most at risk.

Most colorectal cancers arise from adenomatous polyps that progress from small to large polyps, and then to dysplasia and eventually cancer. This adenoma-carcinoma sequence takes at least 10 years on average.

The risk of CRC increases with adenoma size, number and histology; therefore the number and types of lesions found will determine the appropriate interval for subsequent surveillance colonoscopy.

As with most diseases, early detection and prevention is better than cure. The most obvious benefit that colorectal cancer screening provides is that it prevents polyps (if any) from developing into cancer. Polyps that are detected during a colonoscopy are often removed before they can turn malignant in the future.

Another benefit that screening provides is that most early colorectal cancer cases are actually clinically asymptomatic – i.e. patients felt fine otherwise, and did not know that they were suffering from colorectal cancer - only made aware of the condition through screening.

Early colorectal cancers that are treated have a better outcome compared to later stages. For example, Stage I colorectal cancer has a 5-year prognosis of 80% compared to Stage IV with a 5-year prognosis of 10%.

If you’re still on the fence about getting a screening, consider the following:

  • The Singapore Ministry of Health has subsidised rates for eligible individuals to get screening

  • Even in Private clinics, MediShield and various Insurance plans can help to lower the cost of a colonoscopy, making the procedure more available and affordable for patients.

  • Regular screenings can help to detect and prevent colorectal cancer

Ultimately, your body can feel fine even when it’s not; the best time to go for screening is when you’re feeling fine.

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