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Bowel cancer is a cancer that starts in the large bowel. Depending on where it starts, it is sometimes also called colon or rectal cancer. It is a common cancer worldwide. According to Dr. Pramod Kumar Julka, Senior Director, Medical Oncology, Max Institute of Cancer Care, Lajpat Nagar, “In India, these cases are rapidly increasing and there are more and more young adults with bowel cancer.” “25000-30000 colorectal cancers as per national statistics in 2021. Colorectal cancer is more common in elderly above 50 years of age and comprise 2 percent of all cancers,” adds Dr Bhaskar Vishwanathan, Professor and Head of Radiation Oncology, Amrita Hospital, Faridabad.

Signs of bowel cancer


People who are most often diagnosed with bowel cancer report absolute constipation or diarrhea and blood in the stool and sometimes pain in the abdomen, which are some typical symptoms of bowel cancer, shares Dr Pramod. The signs that need attention are disturbed bowel habits like going to the loo for 3-4 times in a day and having alternate diarrhea.

In simpler terms, if you notice bleeding in stools not related to hemorrhoids, recent onset of constipation, incomplete bowel evacuation and a need to have bowel movement that is not relieved by having one, altered bowel habits, decreased appetite, narrowing of the stool that is persistent and persisting pain in the abdomen, you should reach out to your doctor.

If a person suffers from constipation for a long period of time then the stool should be tested for occult blood.

Is excessive flatulence risky?


Excessive flatulence could be due to simple factors like eating too much lentils and beans, vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower or drinking carbonated drinks, lactose intolerance, food intolerance, and celiac disease gluten sensitivity. “It could be a sign of benign diseases like dyspepsia, inflammatory bowel disease like crohns and ulcerative colitis, or due to irritable bowel syndrome. It could also be a sign of colorectal cancers,” adds Dr Vishwanathan.

Healthy practices to keep your bowel healthy


Avoiding eating junk food

Eating proper meals at proper time

Have fiber rich diet

Increase intake of fruits and vegetables

Exercising regularly

Keeping weight under control

Cut consumption of red meat and processed meat

Avoid smoking and alcohol

“People are eating a lot of junk or street food. It’s becoming common with people eating burgers etc which is not very healthy for our bowel and in worse cases, it leads to bowel cancer which means having a healthy lifestyle and eating homemade properly cooked food. Avoiding smoking and alcohol as a habit. All in all a person needs to lead a healthy lifestyle to avoid bowel cancer,” explains Dr Pramod.

Timely diagnosis is key


Everyone should be screened after the age of 45 years for the presence of occult blood in stools (guaic based,fecal immunochemical testing), CT colonography pelvis once in 5 years in case of individuals with a family history of colon cancer, ulcerative colitis, Crohns disease, or cystic fibrosis, adds Dr Bhaskar.

Doctors check for lumps in your abdomen or rectum (bottom). Some people may find the tests difficult and embarrassing, but they don’t take too much time. Your doctor may also get your blood checked to see for deficiencies (especially iron).

Those with a family history of bowel cancer are more at risk. Hence, doctors advise that they should keep getting timely screenings. It gets especially important after the age of 45. It is also believed that people African-American heritage are at an increased risk too.

FAQs

  1. What is bowel cancer?
    Bowel cancer is associated with the abnormal growth of cancer cells in the large bowel, sometimes also called colon or rectal cancer.
  2. What are the symptoms of bowel cancer?
    Bowel cancer symptoms include a persistent change in bowel habits, rectal bleeding, persistent pain in the abdomens and weakness.
  3. What are the first signs of bowel cancer?
    First signs include blood in the faeces, frequent bowel movement, looser stools and abdominal pain.
  4. Does bowel cancer spread quickly?
    Generally, bowel cancer’s progression tends to be slow, but it is still a serious disease that needs immediate treatment.
  5. What is an advanced bowel cancer?
    Advanced bowel cancer is when cancer has spread from the bowel to other organs in the body.
  6. What are the signs of advanced bowel cancer?
    According to Cancer Research UK, signs of advanced bowel cancer include: discomfort or pain on the right side of your abdomen, feeling sick, poor appetite and weight loss, swollen abdomen, yellowing of the skin (jaundice), itchy skin.

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