Myths and Facts on Colorectal and Liver Cancers

Colorectal and liver cancers account for the majority of cancers diagnosed in Singapore. Here, we will address common misconceptions about these cancers, so that people can be better aware of the disease.

Colon/Colorectal Cancer Myths and Facts

The development of colon cancer occurs when polyps form within the large intestine and the rectum, and become malignant over time.

Myth 1: There is nothing I can do about getting colorectal cancer.

Early detection and removal of abnormal growths (polyps), even at the precancerous stage, are possible by undergoing regular screenings such as a colonoscopy, stool and blood test, and biopsy.

Myth 2: Colorectal cancer is fatal and few patients survive from this disease.

Even though colorectal cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Singapore, the prognosis has improved over the years due to increased awareness and improved screening and treatment options. The survival rate for this cancer is at 90% when detected early.

Myth 3: Only people with a family history of colon cancer get it.

Approximately 75% of all new cases of colon cancer are diagnosed in individuals aged 50 and older with no apparent risk factors. When you have a family history, screening may need to begin earlier or be more frequent, and genetic testing may be necessary as an additional measure.

Myth 4: Colorectal cancer is a man’s disease.

Although colorectal cancer is more prevalent in men, the disease can affect anyone regardless of gender, age, or ethnicity. In fact, colorectal cancer is Singapore's leading cause of cancer deaths among men and the second most common in women.

Myth 5: There is no cure for colorectal cancer.

When detected early, colorectal cancer is curable. The type of treatment depends on the extent and stage of the cancer, the patient's overall health, and other factors. The most common treatments include colorectal cancer surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

Colonoscopy Procedure Myths & Facts

Colonoscopy is a procedure that helps identify abnormalities inside of the colon and rectum using a flexible, long, thin instrument with a camera and light attached, called a colonoscope.

Myth 1: Screening is only necessary for people who are symptomatic.

Regular health screenings are helpful for people over the age of 50 who have no symptoms or are at no other known risk factor of colorectal cancer, besides age. This is because colorectal cancer often develops without noticeable symptoms during its early stages. Individuals with a family history of colorectal cancer, colon polyps, or inflammatory bowel disease and those experiencing rectal bleeding should undergo a colonoscopy screening.

Myth 2: Colonoscopy is the only way to screen.

A colonoscopy is not the only method of screening for colorectal cancer. Other screening options include flexible sigmoidoscopy, faecal occult blood test (FOBT), barium enema, and CT colonography or virtual colonoscopy. The choice of screening depends on several factors, including the age and medical history of the patient, and cost.

Myth 3: Colonoscopy is a painful and a difficult procedure to undergo.

The colonoscopy procedure is not painful or difficult. During the procedure, the patient will be sedated and will not be aware of the procedure. The procedure only takes around 30 minutes and requires no downtime. After the colonoscopy, patients may experience slight bloating that disappears soon after.

Myth 4: Having a colon or rectal polyp means I have cancer and need surgery.

While some polyps can become cancerous over time, most are benign growths (non-cancerous) and can be removed through a routine colonoscopy. Regular screenings for colorectal cancer are crucial to detect and remove any polyps at an early stage and prevent cancer from developing.

Liver Cancer Myths and Facts

Liver cancer is a condition in which cancerous cells grow inside the liver, an organ that eliminates body toxins. These are some common misconceptions and facts on liver cancer:

Myth 1: If I have hepatitis C, that means I have liver cancer too.

Hepatitis C causes inflammation in the liver, but it does not necessarily lead to liver cancer. An individual with chronic infection with hepatitis C is at increased risk of developing cancer and liver cirrhosis.

Myth 2: Drinking alcoholic beverages leads to liver cancer.

Drinking excessive amounts of alcoholic beverages is associated with serious health problems, such as liver cancer. This may also result in chronic liver damage and scarring, known as cirrhosis.

Myth 3: Cirrhosis is a precursor to liver cancer.

When a person is diagnosed with liver cancer, they have usually already developed cirrhosis. It is a chronic condition in which healthy liver tissue degenerates into scar tissue, resulting in liver dysfunction. Cirrhosis is a silent disease without symptoms resulting from high alcohol consumption, hepatitis, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, infections, and medications.

Myth 4: There is no cure for liver cancer.

There are various treatments available to manage and potentially slow the progression of liver cancer. Liver transplantation may be an effective treatment for liver cancer, provided that the patient is in good health and is qualified for the procedure. A successful transplant requires early detection of cancer. In addition, liver cancer surgery, radiofrequency ablation, localised chemotherapy, and targeted therapy are other treatment options for liver cancer, depending on the patient's age, general health, and the stage of the disease.

Understanding the myths and facts about colon cancer and liver cancer will allow individuals to make more informed health decisions.

Surgical Associates offers a full range of specialised services and patient care. The clinic is equipped with advanced equipment and treatment techniques for all liver, colon, and rectum conditions. Schedule an appointment with us today.