Bowel cancer is also known as colorectal or colon cancer. It is the kind of cancer which affects the colon or large bowel and rectum. The cancer grows slowly over a period of 10 years. Bowel cancer begins with polyps – small growths on the wall of the bowel. Over the years, some of these polyps can become cancerous. These polyps are usually small and do not give any major symptoms. Some symptoms of bowel cancer can be change in your bowel habits or change in the consistency of your stool which lasts longer than 4 weeks.
Bowel cancer symptoms
Diarrhoea, constipation, rectal bleeding or blood in your stool could be a symptom of bowel cancer. Experiencing continuous discomfort in the abdomen, gas, feeling that your bowel doesn’t empty completely, weakness, fatigue and unexplained weight loss can all be symptoms of bowel cancer.
Most people with bowel cancer do not experience symptoms in the early stages. When the symptoms appear, they vary from person to person depending on the size of the cancer and its location in the large intestine.
Bowel cancer causes
Bowel cancer occurs when there are errors in DNA of healthy cells in colon. When the cells are healthy, they grow and divide in an orderly way. But when the DNA of the cells get damaged, they cell growth becomes cancerous. With time, these cancerous cells continue to grow and harm the nearby tissues as well.
Inherited gene mutations can increase risk of colon cancer
Inherited gene mutations can increase a person’s risk of developing bowel cancer. Hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) and Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) are the two most common forms of bowel cancers.
Bowel cancer risk factors
Studies have linked a typical Western diet to increased risk of bowel cancer. Western diet refers to a diet high in fat and low in fibre. Other risk factors of bowel cancer include old age, personal history of bowel cancer or polyps, chronic inflammatory intestinal conditions, family history of bowel cancer, smoking, alcohol consumption, obesity, diabetes and genetic syndromes passed through the family are possible risk factors of bowel cancer.
When we say risk factors for prostate cancer, we refer to anything which can increase a person’s likelihood of contracting the disease.
How to prevent bowel cancer
Like most cancers, bowel cancer too can be prevented by living a healthy lifestyle. This includes eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Eating fibrous foods is important for preventing bowel cancer.
Alcohol consumption should be minimised as much possible. Smoking can contribute to your risks of developing bowel cancer.
Exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight is important to prevent risks of bowel cancer. Overweight and obese people should work towards losing weight by exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet. The most effective way of losing weight is by burning more calories than consuming in a particular day.