Bowel Cancer is commonly also known as colorectal cancer or colon cancer. Bowel cancer is any cancer which effects the colon (large bowel) and back passage. This kind of cancer is a slow developer, usually manifests over a period of around 10 years. Once it has started, it is easily spread to other parts of the body and begins to affect them relatively quickly.
Cancer Research UK provide an excellent explanation of Bowel Cancer:
Symptoms of bowel cancer:
- A change in bowel habits: if your bowel habits have changed in that you are either going to the toilet more regularly or less regularly than normal this could be a sign. Constipation and not emptying your bowel properly are also signals.
- A lump in your abdomen: if you have a lump in your tummy which is new, unexplained and doesn’t go away, it is best to get yourself checked out.
- Pain in abdomen: having constant and persistent pain in your tummy, especially when coupled with a lump, could mean you have bowel cancer.
- Blood in your stool: if you have noticed any bleeding for no obvious reason, this could be a sign. Reasons this could be happening that is not down to cancer are: pile or tears.
- Weight loss: unexplained dramatic weight loss without actively dieting, or loss of appetite, or feeling bloated or sick could all be signs of cancer of the bowel.
- Unexplained breathlessness and tiredness: feeling constantly tired, breathless or dizzy? These are signs that may indicate bowel cancer.
When to seek medical advice
In saying all of this, most people who experience these symptoms, especially as isolated symptoms DO NOT have bowel cancer. These symptoms are extremely common and everyone can say they have experienced at least one of the above before.
But it is always best to get examined by your GP, who may refer you for further tests if he or she has any concerns.
If you are concerned you could try the bowel cancer symptom checker as provided by the NHS. This could be helpful in decided whether it is necessary to see your GP.
If your symptoms return or persist, always make an appointment to see your local GP.
- Age: those over the age of 50 are more at risk of developing bowel cancer
- Family history: if you have a strong family history of bowel cancer, you could have an increased chance of devolving it.
- Bowel conditions: if you have a different type of bowel condition, such as Colitis, you are more at risk
- Obesity: being over-weight or obese puts you at risk of developing most kinds of cancer, especially bowel cancer. Being physically active and eating well are simple ways to reduce this risk
- Smoking: if you smoke, you have a higher risk of cell mutation and therefore cancer. Smoking however, is usually linked to lung cancer.
- Drinking alcohol: drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can increase your chances of developing bowel cancer.
Treatment for bowel cancer
Depending on the stage and grade, size and location of bowel cancer you have, the treatment can vary. As with the majority of cancer, the effectiveness of the treatment does depend on how far along the cancer is and is easier to cure the earlier the cancer is caught.
The main treatments are as follows:
- Surgery – this is where the cancerous section of the bowel is removed. This is the most effective way of curing cancer of the bowel, and in most cases is what is recommended. Keyhole and robotic surgery are now the usual method used, which is more beneficial as it shortens the recovery time and amount of pain for the patient.
- Chemotherapy – this is where high intensity levels of medication is used to kill cancer cells, meanwhile can also kill good cells in order to effectively get rid of the cancerous cells.
- Radiotheraphy – radiation used to kill cancer cells, as opposed to medication.
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