Bowel cancer, or colorectal cancer, is the general term for cancer that begins in the colon or the rectum. According to the American Cancer Society, most bowel cancer starts as polyps on the inner lining of the colon or rectum. Being aware of bowel cancer and its symptoms will go a long way in increasing the chances of survival and early detection.
Signs & Symptoms Of Bowel Cancer
The signs and symptoms of bowel cancer can vary depending on the type of cancer present, but common symptoms include:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Rectal bleeding
- Blood in the stool
- Feeling of unable to completely empty bowel
- Persistent abdominal discomfort
- Change in bowel habits
The above symptoms are not exclusive to bowel cancer. If you experience worrying symptoms, contact your primary care doctor to schedule an exam. They may refer you to a colorectal specialist for testing such as a colonoscopy.
If you have been diagnosed with bowel cancer, it is of the utmost importance that you work closely with your care team. Ask questions so you understand the cancer and your options:
- Where is the cancer located?
- Has it spread beyond where it started?
- What are my treatment options?
- How quickly do we need to decide on treatment?
Bowel Cancer & Polyps Can Be Detected Early
Thankfully, bowel cancer and associated polys can be detected early through regular screenings. Your doctor can find and remove polyps before they can turn into cancer. Screenings can include stool-based tests and structural exams like colonoscopies.
Typically around the age of 45 your doctor will recommend regular screenings.
Maintain A Healthy Lifestyle
Whether or not you have been diagnosed with cancer of the bowel, keeping a healthy lifestyle will help keep your digestive system working and manage any GI disorders or dysfunctions. This means exercising, eating healthy, and drinking plenty of water.
This will also help prevent the development of hemorrhoids, clumps of swollen blood vessels in the anus or lower rectum. Hemorrhoids can be itchy and painful and even bleed, which can cause worry in some patients. Depending on the severity of the hemorrhoid, your doctor may recommend rubber band ligation.