If you’re age 50 or older, your doctor may recommend screening for bowel cancer. Also known as colorectal cancer, it can be hard to detect due to the nature of the symptoms, especially early on in the disease.
What is Bowel Cancer?
The bowels consist of the large intestine, also known as the colon, and the rectum. Cancer develops when otherwise healthy cells in the colon transform into cells that grow out of control and multiply abnormally, causing a tumour to grow. The cancer cells then starve healthy cells of nutrients, oxygen and space.
What makes it so dangerous is its ability to spread quickly and invade healthy cells before detection. If it is not treated early enough, it will grow and invade the colon wall, the lymph nodes and then can metastasize into other organs in the body. It can be caused by polyps which are small and usually benign growths in the colon that can become cancerous if not found early enough during screening.
According to Icon Cancer Centre, it is the second most common cancer in men and women. Heredity can also play a part in causing bowel cancer. Thirty per cent of diagnosed bowel cancer patients has a family member who also had the disease.
What are the Symptoms?
Symptoms of bowel cancer are not always apparent or appear minimally until cancer becomes more severe. Sometimes the symptoms are attributed to other conditions, further delaying treatment. According to the American Cancer Society, common symptoms include:
Sudden Changes in Bowel Habits
Unusual changes not seen before such as constipation, diarrhea, narrow or “ribbon-like” stools or dark stools. Tell your medico if you have got noticed any persistent and unexplained changes in your bowel habit, particularly if you furthermore may have bleeding from your back passage. you will have a looser poo and you will have to be compelled to poo additional often than traditional. otherwise, you could feel like you’re not planning to the bathroom usually enough otherwise you won’t feel like you’re not totally emptying your bowels.
Blood in the stool or on toilet tissue is sometimes mistaken for hemorrhoids. However, if the blood is bright red and there is no history of hemorrhoids, it needs to be evaluated. Dark stools, sometimes called “tarry stools,” can indicate old blood in the stool.
Loss of Appetite and Unintended Weight Loss
Sudden onset weight loss and loss of appetite can be symptoms. This may be hard to detect but should be discussed with your doctor.
Diagnosing Bowel Cancer
A colonoscopy, which is a scope with a small camera inserted into the rectum, is the most common way to find bowel cancer.
It can also be found by a blood test which shows low red blood cell count, also called anemia. This occurs if the tumour causes undetected bleeding in the digestive tract.
Treatment depends on how early it is found, the type of cancer it is and the location. The most common treatments include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and cryotherapy, which is freezing the cancer cells. The patient’s age and health status also help determine treatment.
According to Mayo Clinic, when found early enough before spreading, bowel cancer has a high survival rate. Unfortunately, the survival rate is much lower if cancer has spread outside the colon.
There are ways to help prevent bowel cancer including a nutritious diet, early screening, alcohol in moderation, no smoking, exercise and weight control.
There is also a stool test you can do at home. Ask your doctor about the details.
In conclusion, most physicians recommend colon screening by age 50. If there are risk factors, some physicians recommend it by age 45. When caught early, bowel cancer is usually treatable. Getting an annual physical and discussing any unusual symptoms with your doctor goes a long way in preventing this condition and many others.