When going to the toilet, one of the key determining factors when it comes to bowel cancer is a change in bowel habits. Specifically, people with the disease are likely to experience recurrent bouts of diarrhoea and constipation. Experts at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust stated there can be “alternating bouts of constipation and diarrhoea”. Symptoms may also consist of a “colicky-type pain” or a vague discomfort in the abdomen.
The health body stated: “If your symptoms have lasted six or more weeks, including bleeding from the rectum, you need to see a specialist.”
Where is the bowel?
The bowel is part of the digestive system, stretching from the stomach to the anus.
What leads to bowel cancer?
Research shows that bowel cancer cases are higher in countries where people consume a high-fat and low-fibre diet.
Scientists have also suggested that a high alcohol intake could be linked to the disease.
The beginning stages of bowel cancer
“Bowel cancer usually first develops inside clumps of cells called polyps on the inner lining of the bowel,” said the NHS.
“Cancer develops when the cells in your body divide and multiply too quickly. This produces a lump of tissue called a tumour.”
Known risk factors for cancer include: smoking, alcohol, red and processed meat, obesity, and inactivity.
“Some conditions affecting the bowel may put you at a higher risk of developing bowel cancer,” the NHS added.
Examples include Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, which will require monitoring.
Two inherited conditions that could lead to bowel cancer include:
Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) – a condition that triggers the growth of non-cancerous polyps inside the bowel.
Hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), also known as Lynch syndrome – an inherited gene fault (mutation) that increases your bowel cancer risk.
Most polyps caused by FAP are non-cancerous, but there is a “high risk that over time at least one will turn cancerous”.
“Most people with FAP have bowel cancer by the time they’re 50,” the health body stated.
While testing for bowel cancer may be slightly uncomfortable, early diagnosis is crucial to better the chances of a full recovery.
People aged 60 to 74, who are registered to their GP, will be eligible for free bowel cancer screening.
Regardless, bowel cancer can develop outside of this age range, which is why anybody experiencing bowel cancer symptoms need to get in contact with their doctor.