Knowing the symptoms to look out for is vital to ensure the early diagnosis of bowel cancer. If symptoms persist for six weeks or more, you should visit your doctor.
Symptoms to look out for:
· Change of bowel habit
• Recent, persistent change of bowel habit to looser, more diarrhoea-like motions.
• Going to the toilet more often.
• Change of bowel habit is especially important if you also have bleeding.
· Rectal bleeding
• Rectal bleeding that persists with no anal symptoms. Bleeding can be due to piles so you will need to have any bleeding checked.
• If you are over 60 and suffering from rectal bleeding, it is important to go for further investigation. Piles in older people can hide more serious symptoms.
· Other higher-risk symptoms and signs include:
• Unexplained anaemia.
• A lump in your stomach.
• Persistent, severe stomach pain, which has come on recently for the first time (especially in an older age group)
Diet, lifestyle and family history are the three things most likely to affect a person’s chances of developing bowel cancer. Your risk of bowel cancer also increases with age, but it does affect younger people. Bowel cancer affects men and women almost equally, although research suggests slightly more men die from the disease. Scientists are still unsure about the causes of bowel cancer, which usually starts as a benign (not cancerous) polyp that becomes cancerous. A polyp is a mushroom-like growth that occurs inside the bowel. Only about 5% of polyps develop into cancer.
The following factors may increase the risk of developing bowel cancer:
· Diet and Lifestyle factors
• A diet high in fat and protein and low in fruit and vegetables
• Alcohol consumption
• Weight gain, particularly around the waist
• Low rates of physical activity.
· Family history of bowel cancer
• Having a parent, brother, sister or child who has had bowel cancer
· Rare genetic conditions
• Hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC)
• Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)
· Other conditions that may increase risk
•Having had Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis for more than 10 years.
While no cancer is completely preventable, you can lower your risk of bowel cancer by eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly.
- Eat plenty of vegetables, legumes (dried beans, peas or lentils), fruits & cereals
- Include lean meat, fish and poultry.
- Include milks, yoghurts and cheeses. Reduced fat varieties should be chosen where possible.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Limit saturated fat and moderate total fat intake.
- Limit your intake of red meat and processed meat.
- Choose foods low in salt.
- Limit your alcohol intake if you choose to drink.
- Consume only moderate amounts of sugars and foods containing added sugars.
- Quit smoking.
People who have bowel cancer in their family, or a genetic predisposition to the disease, should be offered regular screening regardless of whether they are showing symptoms
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