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Usually, bowel cancer arises from benign growths of tissue, known as polyps. Over time, the disease can spread to surrounding tissues; thus the sooner it’s diagnosed, the better the chance of a cure.
The next time you go for a number two in the bathroom, take a good look inside the toilet bowl afterwards.
Are there any specks of blood mixed in with your faecal matter? If so, this can be a warning sign of bowel cancer.
Blood present in the toilet – or the toiler paper – is another cause for concern (unless, of course, you’re menstruating).
Also take note of the consistency of your faeces – are they looser or harder than usual?
If this change of consistency lasts for three weeks or longer, you’ll need to notify your GP.
Other changes in bowel habits that could be a sign of bowel cancer include going to the toiler more often, or more urgently.
Also be aware if you’re persistently straining on the toilet, or if you feel as though you can’t completely empty your bowels.
Away from the bathroom, you may experience unexplained weight loss and a feeling of nausea.
A person with bowel cancer may feel extremely fatigued, which could be due to the blood loss from the bowel.
“You should always contact your GP if you have blood in your poo,” instructed Bupa.
Tests involved in diagnosing bowel cancer can include a colonoscopy.
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A colonoscopy is when a narrow, flexible, tube-like telescopic camera is inserted in the rectum.
Although the thought of this may seem uncomfortable, it’s a routine procedure.
There is nothing doctors and nurses won’t have seen, and the most important thing is to get your health examined.
Should bowel cancer be found, further tests will be needed to determine the size and position of the cancer.
Depending on the above factors, treatment can either cure bowel cancer, or shrink the growth to prolong your life.
There are also options to reduce the symptoms caused by bowel cancer, known as palliative therapy.
Most commonly, open or keyhole surgery is implemented to remove the cancerous section of the bowel.
If possible, the two open ends of the bowel will then be surgically joined together.
Non-surgical treatments include chemotherapy and radiotherapy, which aim to destroy cancer cells.
Following treatment, you’ll be asked to have regular check-ups to make sure the cancer isn’t returning.
In order to minimise your risk of developing bowel cancer in the first place, do not smoke, exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet.
Moreover, it’s important to only drink alcohol in moderation (if at all), and to keep to a healthy weight.
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