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Bowel Cancer

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Bowel cancer occurs in the large bowel and it can spread to the rectum, so alternately it can be termed as colon cancer or rectal cancer. It initiates from a benign polyp occuring in the lining of the colon or the rectum which transforms into cancers with progress of time.

Symptoms of Bowel Cancer

Initially there are no visible symptoms of bowel cancer but as the polyps grow, they can give rise to the following changes:

Causes of Bowel Cancer

Cancer happens when the tissues or the cells start growing rapidly, becoming malignant and affecting the surrounding cells. 

The following are the cause behind bowel cancer:

  • Hereditary: If family members had a history of bowel cancer, familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), also known as Lynch syndrome, then one is more likely to have bowel syndrome.
  • Consumption of too much red meat, excessive drinking and smoking triggers cancer

Obesity, lack of exercise, sedentary lifestyle and inflammatory intestinal disorders like ulcerative colitis, IBS and Crohn’s disease make one vulnerable to bowel cancer.

Preparing for the appointment

Visit your doctor if you notice the aforementioned symptoms. Make a note of the changes you are observing and the discomfort associated with them. Tell your doctor about any other health complications you are suffering from or if you are under medication and also about your family history.

Diagnosis of bowel cancer

Your doctor will evaluate the symptoms and perform preliminary tests like stool occult blood testing and digital rectal examination (manual insertion of gloves finger through the anus to detect abnormality in the rectum and colon). Further tests will be conducted depending on the symptoms, they are:

All these tests will confirm the presence of bowel cancer and depending on the test reports your doctor will grade the cancer as Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3 and Stage 4.

Treatment of Bowel Cancer

Treatment of bowel cancer depends on the stage of the cancer and its progression.

  • Early stage colon cancer marked by formation of polyps can be removed with colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy.
  • Another treatment to remove the cancer from the lining of the bowel is bowel resection. In this operation, the cancerous cells as well as a portion of surrounding healthy tissue is removed to eradicate the cancer.
  • Invasive colon cancer is treated by removing a part of the colon that has been affected with cancer. This surgery is known as colectomy
  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are other treatment options to destroy cancerous cells  

Can bowel cancer be prevented?

Bowel cancer cannot be prevented, however if it gets diagnosed early then it can be cured completely. For this reason undergoing a bowel screening/colon screening test is utmost needed.

Several lifestyle changes like weight management and eating ample fibrous fruits and vegetables reduce chances of bowel cancer. Furthermore, one should try quit smoking and consume alcohol in moderation. Regular exercises also considerably eliminate bowel problems.

We suggest you to get a check up done on experiencing problems with bowel movement and most importantly pain and bleeding in the rectum. An early treatment is the only cure.

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Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: January 16, 2016