Bowel cancer symptoms: The hidden sign ‘mixed’ into your poo to look out for
Dr Hilary Jones discusses bowel cancer awareness acronym
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Bowel cancer is a general term for cancer that begins in the large bowel, which is part of the digestive system. When cancerous cells multiply in this region, they usually give rise to a change in bowel habits. To understand the key characteristics of bowel cancer growth, a systematic review was conducted.
Two major databases – MEDLINE and EMBASE – were searched for studies that provided information on clinical features predictive of bowel cancer
Among other bowel changes, “rectal bleeding mixed with stool” was identified as a key warning sign.
Other signs included dark rectal bleeding and rectal bleeding and diarrhoea.
According to the NHS, in some cases, bowel cancer can also stop digestive waste from passing through the bowel.
This can produce a host of additional symptoms including:
- Intermittent, and occasionally severe, abdominal pain – this is always brought on by eating
- Unintentional weight loss – with persistent abdominal pain
- Constant swelling of the tummy – with abdominal pain
- Being sick – with constant abdominal swelling.
“A bowel obstruction is a medical emergency,” warns the NHS.
“If you suspect your bowel is obstructed go to the accident and emergency (A&E) department of your nearest hospital.”
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.
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Your risk of developing bowel 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.
Many studies have shown that eating lots of red and processed meat increases the risk of bowel cancer.
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.
“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.
A linked risk factor for bowel cancer is obesity, which is estimated to account for 11 out of 100 bowel cancers, says the charity.
Obesity means being very overweight with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher.
BMI is the most widely used method to check if you’re a healthy weight for your height.
A BMI of between 25 and 30 generally means you’re overweight.
According to Cancer Research UK, the risk of bowel cancer is higher in people who are obese compared to those who have a healthy BMI.
How to lose weight
The NHS explains: “To lose weight at a safe and sustainable rate of 0.5 to 1kg a week, most people are advised to reduce their energy intake by 600 calories a day.”
For most men, this will mean consuming no more than 1,900 calories a day, and for most women, no more than 1,400 calories a day.
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