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).

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.

Risk Factors

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

(Last accessed: 17/11/2022)