Bowel cancer is one of the most common types of cancer diagnosed in the United Kingdom, with around 40,000 new cases detected every year. Early diagnosis and treatment is essential for helping people survive the cancer – and that means making sure people are aware of the symptoms so they can identify them and seek help. As April is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, here’s a breakdown of the symptoms of the disease.
What is bowel cancer?
Bowel cancer is also called colorectal cancer and includes large bowel cancer (colon cancer) and cancer of the back passage (rectal cancer).
What are the symptoms?
While the survival rate of this form of cancer is higher than others, bowel cancer shares symptoms with many other common health ailments and thus can be missed. Alarmingly, the deadly disease is often mistaken for hemorrhoids, also known as piles. Health experts advise that the main symptoms of bowel cancer are blood in the stools (feces) and changes in bowel habit – such as more frequent, looser stools – and abdominal pain. Symptoms of bowel cancer can also include bleeding from the bottom and unexplained weight loss and abdominal pain. A persistent change in bowel habits including constipation and diarrhea and unexplained tiredness, dizziness or breathlessness can also be a warning sign of the deadly disease – however subtle they may be.
Who’s at risk?
While it’s not known exactly what causes bowel cancer, but there are a number of things that can increase your risk. The NHS advises that people aged over 60, those who eat a diet high in red meat, people who are overweight or obese, smokers or those who have a family history of the disease should be vigilant. However younger people can also be affected, so don’t shrug the cancer form off as an older person’s disease.
What is the screening process?
Bowel cancer is treatable and curable especially if diagnosed early. Nearly everyone diagnosed at the earliest stage will survive bowel cancer. However, this drops significantly as the disease develops. Taking part in bowel cancer screening is the best way to get diagnosed early, with a test offered called a “flexible sigmoidoscopy” used to look for any polyps or growths that could be cancerous, and in some cases they will take a biopsy or remove them.
Experts urge that you seek advice from your doctor if you note any symptoms or if your body does not respond to the treatment prescribed.