Bowel cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the wall of the large bowel grow in an uncontrolled way.
So what are the symptoms of bowel cancer?
Bowel cancer is usually a slow-growing cancer that often has no symptoms in the early stages of the disease.
The most common symptoms of bowel cancer are:
- Bleeding from the rectum (this may be noticed as blood in the stools)
- Symptoms of anaemia
- A change in bowel habit (loose stools or constipation)
- Abdominal pain or cramping
- Weight loss
- Unexplained tiredness or fatigue.
There are a number of conditions that may cause these symptoms, not just bowel cancer. If any of these symptoms are experienced, it is important they are discussed with your doctor.
The good news is that this type of cancer is one of the most treatable, which is why screening for bowel cancer is so important!
A number of tests may be performed to investigate symptoms of bowel cancer and confirm a diagnosis, such as:
– a physical examination
– a blood test to check for anaemia
– an internal examination of the rectum, anus and colon – this may include a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy
– imaging of the bowel, which may include barium enema, computed tomography (CT) scan or
– magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
– taking a sample of tissue (biopsy) from the bowel wall for examination under a microscope.
Bowel cancer is one of the most preventable cancers and your most effective protection is to:
- do an FOBT (Faecal Occult Blood Test) every two years from age 50.
- get 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per day.
- maintain a healthy body weight.
- eat a well balanced diet.
- avoid processed and burnt meat; limit red meat intake to three to four times per week.
- limit alcohol.
- quit smoking.
See: Cancer Australia – Govenment Website
It is important to consult your GP if you have any of the above symptoms.