Bowel cancer: Major symptoms and signs of the disease

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The bowel is located in the lower part of the digestive system and is divided into two sections, the small bowel (small intestine) and the large bowel (colon).  The digestive system is a complex system whereby foods you consume are broken down to get the main nutrients, which are then broken down into smaller molecules that can be imported into the blood. It’s s system that is imperative to good health and when not working properly can cause major problems. Eating and drinking is therefore key to having a bowel that works properly.

If you are not drinking enough water, the dehydration will make it difficult to pass stools – it is essential that you drink at least two litres of water a day.

If you eat a lot of fibre, then you need to increase your water even more as fibre draws water into the bowel.

Foods you should avoid to reduce the risk of bowel cancer include:

  • Processed meat
  • Too much fibre
  • Onions
  • Fizzy drinks
  • Fatty foods

As with most cancers, the earlier you detect symptoms and treat them, the sooner your health can improve. Unfortunately there is no cure for bowel cancer when it’s too late.

Symptoms of bowel cancer include:

Bleeding

There a a few reasons why there might be blood in your stools, having a bright red colour of blood may come from swollen blood vessels in your rectum which could mean haemorrhoids. Having a dark red or even black red colour however could come from your bowel and may be an indicator of bowel cancer.

Change in how often you are visiting the toilet

Persistent and unexplained changes in your bowel habit, especially if there is blood from your rectum too, is a strong indicator of possible bowel cancer and you should speak to your GP if you notice this.

Weight loss

Not as common as other symptoms – and could mean many other explanations – but a sudden weight loss for no obvious reason could be something to discuss with your doctor.

Extreme fatigue

Having bowel cancer rids your body of iron which in turn leads to anaemia and causes a person to feel very tired and skin appears paler.

Pain or a lump

If you have either a pain or a lump in either your stomach or rectum it is strongly advised to speak with your doctor.

“If you have one or more of the symptoms of bowel cancer, and they persist for more than four weeks, you should see your GP,” said the NHS.

Other symptoms include:

Pain in your tummy

Feeling that you haven’t emptied your bowel properly

Unexplained tiredness, dizziness or breathlessness

A lower than normal level of red blood cells.



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