Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer is the number one cancer in Singapore. Screening tests such as the faecal immunochemical test (FIT) and screening colonoscopy can help prevent it.


What is Colorectal Cancer? 

Colorectal cancer is cancer of the colon (the main part of the large intestine) and the rectum (the passageway connecting the colon to the anus). It is the top killer in Singapore, affecting more than 1,200 cases each year. 

In most people, colorectal cancers develop slowly over several years. Before cancer forms, a growth of tissue or a tumour usually begins as a non-cancerous polyp on the inner lining of the colon or rectum. A polyp is a benign or non-cancerous growth which may develop into cancer over time. Not all polyps change into cancer and this largely depends on the kind of polyp.


Risk Factors

You have a higher chance of developing colorectal cancer if:
You are over 50 years of age
Have a family history of colon or rectum cancer
Have a previous history of colon polyps
Have a history of ulcerative colitis (ulcers in the lining of the large intestine) or Crohn’s disease

If you think you may be at risk you should discuss this with your doctor.

Colorectal Cancer Symptoms 

In the early stages, people with colorectal cancer may not experience any symptoms.

In the later stages, common symptoms include:
A change in bowel habits, including diarrhoea or constipation
Presence of blood in stoolsl
Persistent abdominal discomfort such as cramps, gas or pain

Related: Signs and Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer​​​​

Colorectal Cancer Screening 

Screening for colorectal cancer should begin from age 50 for people with no symptoms. The recommended screening tests  are:

Stool Blood Test (Faecal Immunochemical Test or FIT)


The FIT is a test that:
Detects the presence of small amounts of blood (that can't be seen with the naked eye) in stools
Is safe, quick and easy to do, and can be done at home, without the need to change your diet before the test
Should be done once a year

You can undergo colorectal cancer screening (using FIT) through HPB's integrated screening programme. You will be given two FIT kits because two stool samples should be collected over two days for a more accurate result.

Screening using FIT should be done once a year. However, if you develop any colorectal cancer signs or symptoms even after a normal FIT result, please see your doctor immediately.


The screening colonoscopy:
Uses a flexible tube (colonoscope) to look at the inner lining of the large intestine (colon and rectum)
Takes about 20 to 30 minutes to complete
Has to be done in a hospital by a doctor trained in conducting colonoscopies
Should be done once every 10 years


Discuss with your doctor which screening test is best for you.

For more information about your recommended screenings, visit  and check out FAQs on Screen for Life

Colorectal Cancer Treatment 

The three main treatment options for colorectal cancer are surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. These options may be used alone or in a combination.
Colorectal surgery: this involves removal of the part of the colon that contains the cancer cells.
Chemotherapy: chemotherapy can be used to destroy cancer cells after surgery, to control tumour growth or to relieve symptoms of colorectal cancer.
Radiation therapy: radiation therapy uses X-rays to kill any cancer cells that might remain after surgery, to shrink large tumours before an operation so that they can be removed more easily, or to relieve symptoms of colorectal cancer. Side effects of radiation therapy may include:  
Rectal bleeding

Colorectal Cancer Prevention 

A healthy lifestyle can help prevent colorectal cancer and many other diseases. Take steps to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer by: 
Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains which contain fibre and antioxidants
Limiting fat especially saturated fat from animal sources such as red meat, milk, cheese and ice cream (plant-based "vegetable oil" can also be high in saturated fat)
Limiting alcohol intake
Quitting smoking
Staying physically active and maintaining a healthy body weight


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