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Bowel cancer

Bowel cancer is a term for cancer which starts in the large bowel, depending on where it’s located it could be referred to as colon or rectal cancer.

Bowel cancer is actually one of the most common types of cancer in the UK, with most people diagnosed being over the age of 60.

Symptoms

There are three main symptoms of bowel cancer, these are:

  • Blood in your poo
  • A change in your bowel habit (going more often than usual)
  • Pain in the lower abdomen

However, a lot of the time people with these symptoms don’t have bowel cancer as other health issues can have similar symptoms. Therefore, you don’t need to be overly concerned about your symptoms but it’s a good idea to get them checked out to be sure.

When should you see your doctor?

If you have any two of the above symptoms and have had them for over two weeks, you should go and see your doctor to get checked out.

Causes

It isn’t known what causes bowel cancer exactly, however, there are certain criteria that can increase your risk of developing it, these are:

  • Age – most cases of bowel cancer are in people over the age of 60
  • Diet – according to research, eating lots of processed meats and having a low fibre diet can increase your risk
  • Weight – it’s more common in people who are overweight
  • Exercise – being inactive can increase your risk of developing bowel cancer
  • Alcohol – there’s a possibility that high alcohol intake can increase your chance of getting bowel cancer
  • Smoking – being a regular smoker can also increase the likelihood of you developing bowel cancer
  • Family history – having a close relative who has had bowel cancer can increase the likelihood of you developing bowel cancer

Some people also have an increased risk because they suffer from another condition such as Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis.

Treatment

Bowel cancer can be treated using a few different treatments, which depends on where the cancer is located and how far it has spread.

The main treatments of bowel cancer are:

  • Surgery – this is where the cancerous section of the bowel is removed. This is the most effective way of curing bowel cancer and is often all that is needed.
  • Chemotherapy – this is where medication is used to kill the cancer cells
  • Radiotherapy – where radiation is used to kill the cancer cells.

The chance of a complete cure depends on how far in advance the cancer is diagnosed. As with all cancers, the sooner it is caught the better.

You can find out more about bowel cancer here.

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