Bowel cancer signs: Where do you experience pain? It may ‘come and go’ in a specific area
Bowel cancer: Dr Philippa Kaye lists the symptoms
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Bowel cancer is a general term for cancer that begins in the large bowel. Depending on where the cancer starts, bowel cancer is sometimes called colon or rectal cancer. Bowel cancer is one of the most common types of cancer diagnosed in the UK. Unfortunately, it is often missed initially.
This is because the symptoms can be subtle and do not necessarily make you feel ill.
However, as the cancerous cells grow and spread, they can stop digestive waste passing through the bowel.
This process, known as bowel obstruction, can result in more acute symptoms.
According to the NHS, “severe abdominal pain, which may initially come and go”, is a telltale sign of bowel obstruction.
Other signs include:
- Not being able to pass stools when you go to the toilet
- Noticeable swelling or bloating of the tummy
“A bowel obstruction is a medical emergency. If you suspect your bowel is obstructed, you should see your GP quickly,” warns the NHS.
The health body continues: “If this isn’t possible, go to the accident and emergency (A&E) department of your nearest hospital.”
General signs of bowel cancer to spot
According to Bowel Cancer UK, general signs include:
- Bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your poo
- A persistent and unexplained change in bowel habit
- Unexplained weight loss
- Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason.
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“Most people with these symptoms don’t have bowel cancer. Other health problems can cause similar symptoms,” notes the charity.
It adds: “But if you have any of these, or if things just don’t feel right, go to see your GP. You may need to visit your doctor more than once if your symptoms don’t get better.”
Are you 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.
It’s important to note that having one or more risk factors doesn’t mean that you will definitely get 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,” reports Cancer Research UK.
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. And a portion is about two sausages or three slices of ham.
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. This is about the same as two sausages.
Linked to this is obesity, which is a cause of bowel cancer.
According to Cancer Research UK, it is estimated that 11 out of 100 bowel cancers (11 percent) in the UK are linked to being overweight or obese.
Other risk factors include:
- Smoking tobacco
- Family history.
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