Bowel cancer: Dr Philippa Kaye lists the symptoms
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Although the presentations of bowel cancer are wide-ranging, most symptoms appear when passing stool. However, limiting the search to changes in bowel movement may be limiting, as warning signs can appear elsewhere in the body. Progressive blurring vision and night blindness, for instance, may signal cancer-associated retinopathy, which has been probed as one of the leading symptoms of bowel cancer.
The Cancer Treatment Centres of America notes: “Colorectal cancer symptoms may be minor or non-existent during the early stages of the disease, although there may be some early warning signs.
“The symptoms of colorectal cancer may not develop until the disease has progressed into stage 2 or beyond.”
Occasionally, early signs result from other complications caused by cancer-associated retinopathy, which is characterised by a progressive blurring of vision and night blindness in both eyes, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Neuroscience.
In fact, cancer-associated retinopathy has been investigated as “the leading symptom of [bowel] cancer” by the medical journal of Clinical Case Reports.
The rare visual syndrome is associated with many types of malignancies, and detecting them early can lead to the diagnosis of the causative malignancy.
These paraneoplastic syndromes are not directly related to the spread (metastases) of cancer but rather triggered by an alteration of the immune system.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke explains they may occur when cancer-fighting antibodies or white blood cells mistakenly attack normal cells in the nervous system.
Alternatively, they may be caused by the secretion of functional hormones from the tumour, which can produce wide-ranging symptoms.
Paraneoplastic syndromes are a group of disorders triggered by an abnormal immune system response to a cancerous tumour known as neoplasm.
The Cleveland Clinic states that the types of cancer most likely to cause paraneoplastic syndromes are:
- Gastric (stomach)
Cases have also been reported where bowel cancer was identified as the cause of paraneoplastic syndromes like cancer-associated retinopathy.
Cerebellar degeneration is another syndrome known to cause the loss of nerve cells in the area of the brain that controls muscle function.
This may cause involuntary eye movement and double vision, alongside dizziness, nausea and difficulty swallowing.
Writing in Clinical Case Reports, the authors explained: “In case of unusual visual disorders, suspicion of an underlying malignancy should arise.
“Due to the simple fact that malignancies can occur in different organs, we strongly encourage that every clinic should be aware of the phenomenon of cancer-related retinopathy.”
In some cases, disturbances in vision can result from a metastasis cancer, which is clinically referred to as orbital metastases.
Symptoms generally include eye pain, and visual loss, which tends to present for approximately two months prior to diagnosis.
Annals of Gastroenterology have probed orbital metastases as one of the various presentations of bowel cancer.
In fact, 85 percent of patients with orbital metastases have previously been diagnosed with a primary malignancy, according to the journal.
It tends to present roughly 43 months after the diagnosis of primary cancer but intervals of up to 22 years have been reported.
Together, these findings highlight the importance of getting any unusual bodily changes investigated by a qualified healthcare professional.
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