Bowel Cancer: How to check
How do I spot bowel cancer?
There are three main things to look out for:
- blood in your poo that happens for no obvious reason – it may be bright red or dark red
- a change in how you poo – such as going to the toilet more often or your poo becoming more runny or hard
- feeling lower tummy pain or bloating, when your belly feels full and tight
There may be other symptoms too, such as:
- you’ve lost weight
- you feel you haven’t emptied your bowel properly after a poo
- you feel more tired or dizzy than usual
Having these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bowel cancer, but advice is to see a GP if you notice them for three weeks or longer and if things just don’t feel right.
That means they can be checked out quickly. The earlier cancers are diagnosed, the easier they are to treat.
Sometimes bowel cancer can stop waste passing through the bowel and this can cause a blockage. This can bring on severe tummy pain, constipation and sickness. You will need to see your GP or go to your nearest A&E straight away in those circumstances.
How do I check my poo?
Have a good look at what comes out when you go to the toilet and don’t be embarrassed to talk about it.
You should be looking out for blood in your poo as well as bleeding from the bottom.
Bright red blood may come from swollen blood vessels (piles) in your back passage, but it could also be caused by bowel cancer.
Dark red or black blood in your poo may come from your bowel or stomach, and could also be worrying.
You may also be noticing a change in bowel habit, such as looser poo or pooing more often than normal.
Or you might feel you’re not emptying the bowels properly and not going often enough.
What causes bowel cancer?
No-one is sure exactly what causes it, but there are some things which can make it more likely to develop:
- the older you are, the more likely cancer becomes and bowel is no different – most cases are in adults over 50
- eating a diet with lots of red meat and processed meat, such as sausages, bacon, salami
- smoking cigarettes can up the risk of many cancers
- drinking too much alcohol
- being overweight or obese
- having a history of polyps in your bowel which can grow into tumours
Does it pass down through families?
In most cases, bowel cancer isn’t hereditary but you should tell your GP if you have any close relatives diagnosed before the age of 50.
Some genetic conditions, such as Lynch syndrome, mean people have a much greater risk of developing bowel cancer, but these can also be prevented if doctors know about the condition.
How to reduce your risk?
More than half of bowel cancers could be prevented by people following a healthier lifestyle, scientists say.
That means taking more exercise, eating more fibre and less fat, and drinking about six to eight glasses of water a day.
But it also means going to your GP with any concerning symptoms and taking up the offer of cancer screening as soon as it is offered.
What treatments are available?
Bowel cancer is curable, especially if diagnosed early.
Treatments are becoming more personalised, and advances in genetic testing mean care can be tailored to the way each individual deals with their body’s own cancer.
This approach still needs refining, but it is promising extra years of life for those with cancer.
At whatever stage your cancer is spotted, you will be talked through the treatments available.
That might be surgery, or chemotherapy and radiotherapy, or one or the other depending on your individual cancer.
Bowel Cancer UK has advice on the best questions to ask at appointments with specialists.
Read more here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-61979220