Deborah James discusses 'scary' bowel cancer symptoms
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According to Cancer Research UK, bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK, with around 42,900 people being diagnosed with the condition per year, that’s around 120 per day. Whilst, statistically, the disease affects older people, it’s nevertheless crucial to know what to look out for and not to ignore the symptoms. One of the most recognisable symptoms is rectal bleeding, or in other words, blood in your poo.
The bleeding won’t be severe and according to the Glasgow Colorectal Centre it will be more of a “trickle” than a gushing torrent.
It is also important to note that blood in your poo may also be a symptom of piles.
Although if you don’t have any other symptoms of piles, then it may be worth assessing whether you have other symptoms of bowel cancer.
The blood itself comes from the tumour and the result is that it can make your stools turn a very dark colour.
Other symptoms of bowel cancer include a persistent change in bowel habit.
This includes pooing more often and said poos developing a looser, runnier form than before.
The change in bowel habit may subsequently be accompanied by some abdominal or tummy pain.
Further symptoms of bowel cancer include abdominal discomfort or bloating brought about by eating; this can occasionally result in reducing the amount of food you eat and subsequent weight loss.
According to the NHS, even with some of these symptoms it does not guarantee you have bowel cancer, that is unless you have them for three weeks or more, at which point you should consult your GP.
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Bowel Cancer UK also notes that other symptoms include being extremely tired and developing a lump in your abdomen.
Unfortunately, we don’t know the exact cause of bowel cancer, but as with most other diseases, there are risk factors that increase or decrease your chances of developing bowel cancer.
Are you at risk?
The biggest risk factor is age, more than 90 percent of bowel cancer develop in the over-50s and nearly 60 percent of cases develop in those 70 and above.
This doesn’t, however, mean the young are immune. The Radio 1 Presenter Adele Roberts recently returned to broadcasting after recovering from bowel cancer earlier this year.
The 42-year-old credited the NHS for saving her life and has bravely used her experience to raise awareness of the condition and its symptoms.
Other risk factors include family history, if a first degree relative (such as a parent or sibling) who is under the age of 50 has the condition.
According to the NHS, it may be the case too that it’s in your genes. There are two rare inherited conditions – familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and Lynch syndrome – that can lead to bowel cancer potentially developing.
Your diet is also an important factor. Research suggests that having a diet high in red and processed meat increases your risk whilst a diet high in fibre can reduce your risk.
Smoking and alcohol play their part too. Those who smoke are more likely to develop bowel cancer, whilst alcohol increases your risk if you drink large amounts on a regular basis.
As with Type 2 Diabetes, being overweight and inactive increases your risk of developing bowel cancer with obesity linked to an increased risk in men especially.
The good news is that every year treatments for bowel cancer are improving and more people are surviving, 53 percent of people live for ten or more years and 54 percent of cases are preventable.
However, the crucial thing is that, if ever you feel like something isn’t quite right, contact your GP or the NHS 111 Helpline. You never know when looking down could save your life.
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