Deborah James discusses bowel cancer signs and symptoms
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Bowel cancer develops when the cells in the bowel divide and multiply too quickly. When this happens, it can disrupt the digestive system. One of the first casualties of this destructive process is a change to your bowel habits.
According to One Ashford Hospital, a sensation of not being able to completely empty your bowels can be a telltale sign of bowel cancer.
Other warning signs include:
- A change in your regular bowel habits such as diarrhoea or constipation, or a change in the consistency of your stools
- Bleeding from the back passage or blood in your stool
- Constant abdominal discomfort, such as cramps
- Feelings of weakness, fatigue and breathlessness caused by a low level of red blood cells
- Unexplained weight loss
- A lump in your abdomen or back passage that can be felt by your doctor.
Just because you experience these symptoms, it does not necessarily mean you have bowel cancer.
As One Ashford Hospital explains, One Ashford Hospital, these symptoms can be linked to other health problems such as haemorrhoids.
“However, as you get older, symptoms should be taken more seriously, particularly if you have tried conservative treatments that have failed to address the problem.”
According to the NHS, you should see a GP if you have any of the symptoms of bowel cancer for three weeks or more.
“When you first see a GP, they’ll ask about your symptoms and whether you have a family history of bowel cancer,” explains the health body.
“They’ll usually carry out a simple examination of your bottom, known as a digital rectal examination (DRE), and examine your tummy (abdomen).”
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This is a useful way of checking whether there are any lumps in your tummy or bottom (rectum).
Am I at risk?
The exact cause of bowel cancer is unknown. However, research has shown several factors may make you more likely to develop it.
Your risk of developing bowel (colon and rectal) cancer depends on many things including age, genetics and lifestyle factors.
Having one or more risk factors doesn’t mean that you will definitely get bowel cancer.
The role diet plays in influencing the risk of bowel remains unknown or uncertain but know that some foods can definitely affect the risk of bowel cancer.
Many studies have shown that eating lots of red and processed meat increases the risk of bowel cancer.
It is estimated that around 13 out of 100 bowel cancer cases (around 13 percent) in the UK are linked to eating these meats.
Processed meat is any meat that has been treated to preserve it and/or add flavour – for example, bacon, salami, sausages, canned meat, or chicken nuggets.
The government recommends that people eating more than 90g of red and processed meat a day should reduce it to 70g or less. 70g is the cooked weight.
According to Cancer Research UK, obesity is also a cause of bowel cancer.
“It is estimated that 11 out of 100 bowel cancers (11 percent) in the UK are linked to being overweight or obese,” the charity reports.
Obesity means being very overweight with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher.
BMI is a measure of whether you’re a healthy weight for your height.
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