Bowel cancer is prevalent in the UK, with around 42,000 people diagnosed with it each year. The cancer starts in the large bowel (colon) or back passage (rectum), but can also spread to other parts of the body. The nature and effectiveness of the treatment will depend on the stage of the cancer so early detection is essential to improving outcomes. Noticeable changes in toilet habits could be an early red flag.
According to Bupa, blood in your poo could signify the condition.
“This may be mixed in your poo or flecks on the surface, or you may see it in the toilet or on toilet paper,” Bupa explained.
A change in the consistency of your poo (looser or harder) is also associated with the cancer, noted the health body.
As the charity explained, people may also experience straining or feelings of incomplete emptying of the bowel.
More frequent or urgent trips to the toilet is another early warning sign, added the health site.
Experiencing these symptoms for longer than three weeks is a telltale sign of the condition, it added.
According to the NHS, people with bowel cancer may also experience abdominal pain, discomfort or bloating always brought on by eating – sometimes resulting in a reduction in the amount of food eaten and weight loss.
“In some cases, bowel cancer can stop digestive waste passing through the bowel. This is known as a bowel obstruction,” explained the health body.
Symptoms of a bowel obstruction can include:
- Intermittent, and occasionally severe, abdominal pain – this is always provoked by eating
- Unintentional weight loss – with persistent abdominal pain
- Constant swelling of the tummy – with abdominal pain
- Vomiting – with constant abdominal swelling
“A bowel obstruction is a medical emergency. If you suspect your bowel is obstructed, you should see your GP quickly.
“If this isn’t possible, go to the accident and emergency (A&E) department of your nearest hospital,” cautioned the NHS.
If it’s detected early enough, treatment can cure bowel cancer and stop it coming back
Surgery is usually the main treatment for bowel cancer, and may be combined with chemotherapy, radiotherapy or biological treatments, depending on a person’s particular case.
“If it’s detected early enough, treatment can cure bowel cancer and stop it coming back,” noted the health site.
Unfortunately, a complete cure isn’t always possible and there’s sometimes a risk that the cancer could recur at a later stage, said the health site.
It added: “A cure is highly unlikely in more advanced cases that can’t be removed completely by surgery.
“But symptoms can be controlled and the spread of the cancer can be slowed using a combination of treatments.”
There are a number of preventative measures people can take to reduce the risk of developing the condition, said Bupa.
- Try to do some regular exercise.
- Stop smoking.
- Keep to a healthy weight.
- Eat a healthy diet. This includes plenty of fruit and vegetables every day and foods that are high in fibre, such as wholegrain bread, cereals and pasta. Cut down on the amount of processed and red meat you eat.
- Only drink alcohol in moderation.
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