Colorectal or colon cancer is among the top three cancers for both men and women in South Africa with 1 in 77 males and 1 in 132 females diagnosed according to the National Cancer Register (2019)**. There is evidence of many younger individuals being diagnosed with colorectal cancer. It’s the second most common cancer in men (following prostate cancer) and the third most common cancer in women (following breast and cervical cancer).
CANSA in partnership with The South African Colorectal Society (SACRS) launched its Colorectal Awareness and Support Programme on World Health Day, 7 April 2021. Now in its second year CANSA aims to educate with the facts in a fun, interactive way with a colorectal awareness video featuring ‘Sizwe and Crystal’ as well as The ‘Colin the Colon’ Tunnel, created to give the public a chance to learn about colorectal cancer in a visual and tactile manner. The public can walk through a 2x3m inflatable tunnel representing the colorectal tract and get educated about colorectal cancer.
The Programme aims to:
- Help educate the public to lower risk of colorectal cancer
- Help people recognise the symptoms of colorectal cancer
- Increase knowledge around screening options to facilitate early detection
- Help cancer patients cope better with diagnosis and treatment by providing support materials to help them understand and access public / private health support services, pain management, stoma products and care
- CANSA and the SACRS will also be advocating with policy makers for a National Colorectal Cancer Policy (the policy should promote the rights of colorectal cancer patients, guide population based screening and public health services related to risk reduction, treatment, care, support and control of colorectal cancer).
2022: Is Your Colon Healthy?
Did You Know?
- Colorectal cancer in its early stages shows no symptoms. It is often diagnosed late when at a more advanced stage or it has spread to other parts of the body.
- It is therefore important to be aware of family history and to take advantage of screening for colorectal cancer before symptoms are experienced, and not to wait until experiencing discomfort.
- Most colorectal cancers begin as a polyp, a small growth of tissue that starts in the lining & grows into the centre of the colon or rectum. Doctors can remove polyps during the colonoscopy procedure.
- Treatment depends on how far the cancer has advanced and may include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or a combination of these therapies.
CANSA encourages early detection and screening by means of a colonoscopy, starting at age 50 and repeated every 10 years depending on the individual’s risk factors. A colonoscopy may also be requested if abnormal symptoms are experienced and if there is a family history of colorectal cancer a colonoscopy may be requested at a younger age. CANSA provides Faecal Occult at home stool tests (R100), which can be done at home. If the test is positive (visible red line on test strip) for the presence of blood in the stool, CANSA provides a referral letter to request a colonoscopy.
Lifestyle factors such as lack of regular exercise; low fruit / vegetable intake; low fibre and high fat diet; obesity; alcohol abuse; tobacco use and poor oral hygiene. Hereditary syndromes (Lynch Syndrome); a personal or family history of polyps or colorectal cancer; inflammatory bowel disease; type 2 Diabetes and old age are other risk factors.
In early stages symptoms are not present, however when they do occur, they may include:
- change in bowel habits (diarrhoea / constipation / consistency of stools)
- rectal bleeding or blood in stools
- persistent abdominal discomfort (cramps, gas or pain not related to diet)
- a feeling that the bowel does not completely empty
- weakness or fatigue
- unexplained weight loss
Mimi Neumann: “My message as a stage 4 colorectal cancer patient is to insist on a colonoscopy if you suffer recurrent irritable bowel symptoms, or if there is a close relative suffering from colon cancer.” (cancer Survivor)
Donna Bessenger: “Don’t ignore simple things like constipation. Monitor your bowel movements. I was healthy and then had constipation. The next thing I knew I had stage 4 rectal cancer.” (cancer Survivor)
Carol Le Cornu: “I had constipation and pain. My initial doctor said I had piles. When I finally went to get a second opinion after one year of misdiagnosis, I was diagnosed with 4th stage colorectal cancer and 3rd stage lymph node cancer.” (cancer Survivor)
Waheebah Mustapha Jordaan: “My bowel movements were normal, but I had severe abdominal pain for two months, before being diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer.” (cancer Survivor)
Heather Richards: “I have colon cancer stage 4. Looking back I had 2 symptoms: a change in colour of stool and excessive tiredness about 3 weeks before diagnosis. No pain at all. I put it down to anxiety and stress.” (cancer Survivor)
Carima Adams: I am a colorectal survivor who was diagnosed at 28, late stage 3. I experienced symptoms but the doctors kept misdiagnosing me. Eventually I went straight to a specialist who picked it up. If you find any blood or mucous in your stools go to a GP or specialist immediately.” (cancer Survivor)
Risk factors: a family history of colorectal cancer; a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease; colorectal polyps, consumption of red & processed meats; low fruit & veg intake; low-fibre & high-fat diet; excess body weight; alcohol consumption; insufficient intake of clean, safe water; smoking, physical inactivity and exposure to chemicals. CANSA advises living a balanced lifestyle to reduce risk of colorectal cancer.
Diagnosis & Support
If you have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer, please contact your local CANSA Care Centre so that our staff can offer you and your loved ones care & support, including medical equipment hire, wigs, counselling, support groups, online support groups and resources, as well as CANSA Care Homes where patients receiving treatment far from home can stay during treatment.
A side effect of colorectal cancer may include having a colostomy. Many colorectal cancer patients have a portion of their bowel and / or colon removed and end up with a permanent stoma. A stoma is an opening on the abdomen that can be connected to the digestive or urinary system to allow waste to be diverted from the body. It can take a while for a patient to adapt to living with a stoma, so it’s important to seek support from CANSA.
CANSA offers professional pre- and post-operative counselling and support groups at our Stoma Clinics and Stoma bags and linen savers can be purchased at reduced prices at most local CANSA Care Centres. CANSA provides stock of the biggest stoma brands and guarantees the lowest prices, professional assistance and speedy delivery.
NB: Where a CANSA Care Centre is not equipped to provide the above-mentioned service, patients will be referred to reliable service providers in their local community.
The CANSA Tele Stoma Support Service offers online consultations for stoma patients and their families to assist with challenges or stoma queries. Make an appoinment on 0800 22 66 22.
Staff can also help guide you through the public health care system.