Bowel cancer or colorectal cancer is a generalized term to indicate a cancer that begins in the large bowel. Bowel cancer can be also termed colon cancer or rectal cancer depending on where the cancer begins. Bowel cancer is one of the widely prevalent types of cancer and 1 in 12 people will be diagnosed with bowel cancer in their lifetime. The exact reason behind what causes bowel cancer is not known, but it is thought that inflammation damages or alters certain genes in the cells that promote them to multiply out of control.
Signs and Symptoms of Bowel Cancer
There are a few recognizable symptoms of bowel cancer which tend to persist despite simple treatments. They are as follows:
- A persistent change in bowel habits – going to the toilet more often, passing looser stools together with blood on or in the stool.
- Passing mucus in the stool.
- A persistent change in bowel habit accompanied with abdominal pain.
- The presence of blood in the stool without haemorrhoid symptoms like soreness, itching, pain, discomfort or presence of a lump at the opening of the back passage.
- Abdominal pain, discomfort and bloating which results in the reduction of appetite thereby causing weight loss
Risk Factors involved in Bowel Cancer
Although, there is no apparent reason for the development of bowel cancer, but there are a few risk factors that increase the chances of this disease.
- Age – Age plays an important role in bowel cancer. Most people ask a question that “at what age can you get bowel cancer?” Well, bowel cancer is more common in older people above the age of 60 years. If you determine bowel cancer by age, you will see that 8 out of 10 people diagnosed with bowel cancer are older than 60.
- Genetic Factor – Heredity also plays a role in notching up the risk of bowel cancer. Having a close relative who has developed bowel cancer below 50 years puts you at high lifetime risk of developing the condition.
- Inherited Disorders – Rare inherited disorders such as familial adenomatous polyposis or hereditary non-polyposis bowel cancer.
- Diet – A diet rich in red meat and processed meats and low in fiber increases the risk of colorectal cancer.
- Exercise – Having an inactive and sedentary lifestyle that lacks exercise also increases the risk of getting this disease.
- Body Weight – Bowel cancer is more common in overweight or obese people.
- Alcohol and Smoking – Excessive smoking and alcohol consumption may enhance the chances of developing bowel cancer.
- Chronic Digestive Disorders – Suffering from ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease for more than 8 to 10 years also increases the chances of developing bowel cancer.
Expanding Waistline Could Increase the Risk of Bowel Cancer in Middle-Aged Men
Well, now that you have got some idea about what is bowel cancer and bowel cancer causes, let us look into one of the main bowel cancer risk factors. According to a research that was presented at the 23rd United European Gastroenterology Week in Barcelona, Spain, middle-aged men with an expanding waistline are at higher risk of developing bowel cancer. There is a close link between excessive body weight and bowel cancer as well. A 10 cm increase in waist circumference over 10 years can increase the risk of colorectal cancer by 60%. This increased cancer risk is being linked to persistent inflammation in people suffering from obesity. Bowel cancer risk is strongly linked to age, obesity and diet – all of which control inflammation. This study proves that being physically active along with a well-planned diet containing anti-inflammatory foods and other anti-inflammatory agents might be useful in lowering the risk of bowel cancer in people suffering from obesity.
Assessment and Diagnosis of Bowel Cancer
After going through the signs and symptoms of the patient, the dotor might run a few examinations if he or she suspects that the patient has bowel cancer. One of the basic examinations is the rectal examination where the doctor checks for the presence of tumour in the lower part of the rectum. The doctor can also suggest one of more of the following tests:
Colonoscopy - In this particular test a thin and flexible telescope is inserted through the anus into the colon to provide a detailed view of the colon and rectum.
Flexible Sigmoidoscopy - This test is quite similar to colonoscopy. In this test, a shorter telescope is inserted only into the rectum and sigmoid colon.
CT Colonography - This tests uses x-rays to present a series of images of the colon and rectum that is then organised by a computer to create a detailed picture that may reveal the polyps or anything unusual growing on the surface of the colon or rectum.
Barium enema - This test provides pictures of the colon and rectum. In this test, barium liquid is placed in the colon and rectum to reveal the outlines of the colon and rectum more clearly on the X-ray picture.
Biopsy - In this procedure a small sample of the tissue is removed from the body, and it is examined under the microscope to search for abnormal cells. This test is done to confirm the diagnosis.
Other Tests – Other tests such as ultrasound scan, CT scan and MRI scan can be done to assess the spread and extent of the cancer which helps in the staging of the cancer.
Treatment Options for Bowel Cancer
There are 3 main treatment options for bowel cancer – surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Each treatment depends on some factors such as the stage of cancer and the general health of the patient.
Surgery - It is possible to remove a primary cancerous tumour surgically if the cancer is at an early stage. The operation involves cutting through the colon or rectum just above or below the tumour; removing the affected section and sewing together the two cut ends. If the tumour is located down in the rectum, then the rectum and anus are removed. In addition to surgical resection some other surgical options for colorectal cancer includes laparoscopic surgery, colostomy for colorectal cancer and radiofrequency ablation.
Chemotherapy - In this treatment, anticancer medicines are used to kill the cancer cells.
Radiotherapy - In this treatment, high-energy beams of radiation are focused on the cancerous tissues that kill the cancer cells and stop them from multiplying.
Know the risk factors and symptoms of bowel cancer and the ways to prevent it effectively and share the information with your family and friends to stay aware and lead a healthy and disease-free life.
All the treatments – medicines, injections and vaccines are for general information of the reader. Please consult a doctor and get a formal prescription before taking any medicines, supplements and injections.
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