Understanding colorectal cancer

At Icon Cancer Centre Hong Kong we offer the latest in treatment methods and technologies for a range of cancers.

Our experienced team of clinical oncologists are dedicated to delivering exceptional care and supporting you through your diagnosis, treatment, and beyond.

Understanding colorectal cancer

If you have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer, it’s normal to feel a bit overwhelmed by the amount of new information people are sharing with you.

Knowing more about your cancer and what to expect before and after treatment can help you prepare. The following information outlines what your cancer is and how it is diagnosed and treated.

We encourage you to speak to your doctor and care team, who are here to support you throughout your time at Icon.

We will always have time to talk to you and answer your questions.

About colorectal cancer

Colorectal cancer occurs when abnormal cells grow uncontrollably in the large bowel or rectum, forming a cancerous tumour.

Colorectal cancer can be described in stages depending on how early or advanced the cancer is. These include:

  • Stage 0 – The cancer is in its earliest stage and has not spread beyond the inner layer (mucosa) of the colon or rectum
  • Stage I – The cancer has spread beyond the inner layer of the colon or rectum, but not to the lymph nodes
  • Stage II – The cancer has spread to the outermost layers of the colon or rectum and to surrounding areas, but not to the lymph nodes
  • Stage III – The cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, but not to distant organs
  • Stage IV – The cancer has spread to distant organs (lung, liver) throughout the body


Colorectal cancer diagnosis involves a number of tests. You may undergo a faecal occult blood test, which tests for the presence of haemoglobin in your stool; a proctoscopy/sigmoidoscopy, where a metal tube is inserted into the rectum to inspect for rectal polyps and signs of cancer; a barium enema, which is a special x-ray used to examine the colon; or a colonoscopy, a procedure which involves inserting a camera on a flexible tube into the rectum to endoscopically examine the colon.

Further tests may also be required, often to see if the cancer has spread beyond the colon or rectum. These include a MRI scan, PET scan, x-ray, CT scan or ultrasound.


Treatment for colorectal cancer depends on the type that you have, and your age, medical history and treatment preferences. Options include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and targeted therapy.

Common questions

It’s natural to want to know more about your cancer when first diagnosed. We’ve included some common questions that patients ask about colorectal cancer to help you. Your treatment team at Icon can also answer any additional questions that you have at any point in time.

What are the symptoms of colorectal cancer?

Not everyone experiences symptoms of colorectal cancer, however some common signs include bright red or dark blood in your stool, sudden changes in bowel motions (such as diarrhoea, constipation, having narrower stools or stools that contain mucus), weight loss, abdominal discomfort or bloating, unexplained anaemia (low iron) causing tiredness and breathlessness, and a lump or pain around the anus.

What causes colorectal cancer?

Certain risk factors can play a role in the development of colorectal cancer. These include:

  • Age – People aged 50 or above are more likely to develop colorectal cancer
  • Diet – Diets with high animal fat, high protein and low fibre may increase the risk of colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer
  • Family history – A person who has one or more family members with colorectal cancer may have a higher risk of developing the disease
  • Colorectal polyps – Size and quantity of polyps can increase the risk of colorectal cancer
  • Smoking
  • Colorectal disease history – previously having diseases such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis significantly increases your risk

Making an appointment

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Care team

Every member of Icon’s team is here to help. Here are some of the team members you may meet and how they will be involved in your treatment.
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