The Surprising Early Signs of Colon Cancer Seniors Shouldn’t Ignore

Colon cancer is one of the most common cancers in Singapore. While screening helps, knowing the early warning signs is crucial, as early detection greatly improves survival rates. This article explores the subtle symptoms seniors should watch for and top gastroenterologists to see for examinations.

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Early Symptoms of Colon Cancer in Singapore

Colon cancer is highly treatable if caught early. But spotting it early means knowing the subtle signs. Here are surprising symptoms to watch for:

  • Changes in bowel habits – Constipation, diarrhea, narrower stools, and urgency can indicate colon issues.
  • Blood in stool – Dark red blood or clots from the rectum are a red flag for cancer. Though hemorrhoids also cause rectal bleeding.
  • Unexplained weight loss – Drop in weight not tied to diet/exercise could signal colon or other digestive cancers.
  • Abdominal pain – Persistent cramps, bloating, gas pains may indicate blockages from polyps or tumors. Pain is usually mild at first.
  • Fatigue/anemia – Cancer can cause low red blood cell counts. Check for exhaustion, dizziness, pale skin, shortness of breath.
  • Unrelenting heartburn – Frequent reflux and burning sensation could indicate cancers rather than mere indigestion. Have it checked.

Though these symptoms may result from other conditions, individuals especially over 50 should be vigilant and get checked by a gastroenterologist if they persist. Waiting leads to worse outcomes. Catching cancer early makes treatment much more effective.

Top Colon Doctors in Singapore

If experiencing potential colon cancer symptoms, prompt examination by a gastroenterologist skilled in colon health is critical. Here are top colon doctors in Singapore to consider:

  • Dr Wong Tien Hua – Founder and consultant at Gastroenterology and Medicine International with over 30 years experience treating colon conditions. Known for patient-centric care.
  • Dr Tan Chi Chiu – Medical director at Gastroenterology and Hepatology Specialists. Expertise spans colon cancer, IBS, and reflux. Trained in the US and Singapore.
  • Dr Lee Yeong Yeh – Chairman of the Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Changi General Hospital. Specialist in colonoscopy, colon cancer, IBD.
  • Dr Yeoh Khek Gee – Senior consultant gastroenterologist at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital with expertise in colon cancer screening, IBD, digestive endoscopy.
  • Dr Goh Lee Gan – Consultant gastroenterologist and physician at Gastroenterology and Medicine Clinic. Skilled in colonoscopy, treating intestinal diseases.
  • Dr Ang Tiing Leong – Chairman of the Division of Gastroenterology & Hepatology at Changi General Hospital. Vast experience in colon cancer and therapy.
  • Dr Chow Wei Chen – Senior consultant at Digestive Disease Centre with focus on colon cancer, screening, IBD. Trained in Singapore and the United Kingdom.
  • Dr Wong Chi Sang – Consultant at Digestive Disease Centre and adjunct associate professor at Duke-NUS. Specializes in colon cancer surveillance and prevention.

Look for doctors associated with major institutions like NUH, Mount E, SGH, with 10+ years experience specifically in colon health. Check reviews and seek referrals to find the best fit.

Symptoms and Screening for Colon Cancer

Spotting colon cancer early is critical, as survival rates are dramatically higher when treated early. Here are more details on symptom patterns and screening options:

Constipation – Slow transit time and difficulty passing stools may indicate possible blockages or growths in the colon. Alternating constipation and diarrhea can also signal problems. Any abrupt changes to your normal bowel rhythm warrant attention.

Blood in stool – Red blood when wiping or in the toilet bowl, especially if recurrent, should be examined immediately. Dark black stools can also indicate bleeding higher up in the colon. Clots are more concerning than streaks.

Abdominal discomfort – Persistent cramps, bloating, and gas pains may point to blockages from polyps or tumors obstructing the colon. Pain is typically mild in early stages though can sometimes be acute.

Unexplained weight loss – Drop in weight not tied to changes in diet or exercise can be an insidious sign of colon or other digestive cancers. Keep an eye on any downward weight trends.

Anemia – Cancer can induce iron deficiency and anemia. Check for exhaustion, dizziness, headache, rapid heart rate, pale skin, nails and gums, trouble concentrating. Have blood counts tested.

Screening – Colonoscopies check the entire colon for polyps and cancer. Other options include at-home stool tests like FIT or Cologuard. Screening should start at 45, or earlier for those at high risk. Catching precancerous polyps early via screening is key.

Don’t delay on symptoms – Promptly consult a gastroenterologist if symptoms are recurrent or persistent. Colon cancer is highly treatable if detected early. Waiting allows it to progress and lowers survival rates. Act quickly on any potential signs.

Top Colonoscopy Procedures and Preparation

Colon cancer screening typically involves colonoscopy procedures to visually inspect the colon for lesions. Here are prep tips and key colonoscopy choices:

Colonoscopy Prep – Liquid diet, laxatives, and enemas are used to fully cleanse the colon. Follow prep instructions closely to ensure the colon is empty and visible. Incomplete prep may lead to missed polyps and cancellation/rescheduling. Ask your doctor for full prep details.

Sedation options – Oral sedatives or IV anesthesia provide relaxation and pain relief. Discuss optimal sedation choices with your gastroenterologist based on health history and procedure complexity.

Polyp removal – If precancerous polyps are found, majority can be removed during the colonoscopy itself via snares or hot forceps for biopsy. This prevents their progression to cancer.

Full spectrum endoscopy – Newer endoscopes provide 330 degrees expanded view compared to older 170 degree models. This reduces blind spots, enabling more thorough inspection. If available, choose full spectrum.

CT colonography – This scan provides a 3D model of the colon for analysis. Non-invasive but less accurate than visual colonoscopy. Useful where colonoscopy is challenging.

Virtual colonoscopy – CT images are reconstructed into a virtual model the gastroenterologist navigates. Limited availability in Singapore currently. Not covered by insurance.

Post-procedure – Plan for 1-2 days rest following the colonoscopy due to sedation effects. Resume normal diet after passing initial gas and bowel movement. Watch for bleeding, pain or fever indicating potential complications.

Discuss the options to determine the optimal colon cancer screening plan. Balance accuracy, preparation and cost. Proper screening starting at 45 saves lives by detecting colon cancer early.


In summary, seniors and those over 50 should be vigilant to subtle colon cancer symptoms like changed bowel habits, rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, fatigue and weight loss. Promptly consult a specialist if symptoms are persistent or recurrent. Top colon doctors in Singapore can provide accurate diagnosis and life-saving treatment if cancer is found early.

Colonoscopy screening starting at 45 is highly advisable, even if no symptoms are present, as finding and removing precancerous polyps prevents cancer progression. Though preparation is unpleasant, proper screening and early detection can improve colon cancer survival from 50% to over 90%.

Don’t ignore the surprising warning signs your body may give. Diagnose and address colon issues early. Partner with an experienced gastroenterologist. Stay vigilant with screening. Catching colon cancer in initial stages makes all the difference, greatly enhancing chances for successful treatment and recovery. Protect yourself by knowing what to look for.

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