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Cancer symptoms: Top 14 early signs to look out for
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Bowel cancer describes what happens when cells start to divide uncontrollably in the large bowel, which is part of the digestive symptom. Early detection is essential to surviving the disease yet symptoms often slip under radar, owing in part to a lack of awareness. Express.co.uk caught up with Monika Wassermann, doctor, freelance writer and MD at oliolusso.com, to get a better understanding of the spectrum of symptoms.
According to Doctor Wassermann, one telltale sign that can “accurately” show that you have bowel cancer is a “constant urge that you don’t fully empty the bowel”.
Of course, it is the collection of symptoms that gives you the best indication of cancer.
Doctor Wassermann listed the following signs to spot:
- Frequent blood in your faeces accompanied by rectal pain and bleeding
- Persistent change in the stool’s consistency or habit from diarrhoea to constipation
- Extreme abdominal pain especially on the lower part, holland frei cancer medicine cramps and bloating
- A constant urge that you don’t fully empty the bowel.
“Other signs such as unintended weight gain, and weakness cannot directly show a bowel cancer prognosis”, she noted.
How to respond
The NHS says: “See a GP If you have any of the symptoms of bowel cancer for three weeks or more.”
The GP may decide to:
- Examine your tummy and bottom to make sure you have no lumps
- Arrange for a simple blood test to check for iron deficiency anaemia – this can show whether there’s any bleeding from your bowel that you have not been aware of
- Arrange for you to have a simple test in hospital to make sure there’s no serious cause of your symptoms.
“Make sure you see a GP if your symptoms persist or keep coming back after stopping treatment, regardless of their severity or your age. You’ll probably be referred to hospital,” advises the NHS.
As it points out, a small number of cancers can only be diagnosed by a more extensive examination of the colon.
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Are you at risk?
The exact cause of bowel cancer is unknown. However, research has shown several factors may make you more likely to develop it.
Your risk of developing bowel (colon and rectal) cancer depends on many things including age, genetics and lifestyle factors.
It’s worth noting that having one or more risk factors doesn’t mean that you will definitely get bowel cancer.
The role diet plays in increasing the risk of bowel cancer is complex but many studies have shown that eating lots of red and processed meat increases the risk of bowel cancer.
It is estimated that around 13 out of 100 bowel cancer cases (around 13 percent) in the UK are linked to eating these meats.
Processed meat is any meat that has been treated to preserve it and/or add flavour – for example, bacon, salami, sausages, canned meat or chicken nuggets. And a portion is about two sausages or three slices of ham.
The Government recommends that people eating more than 90g of red and processed meat a day should reduce it to 70g or less. 70g is the cooked weight. This is about the same as two sausages.
According to Cancer Research UK, eating lots of fibre reduces your risk of bowel cancer – eating too little fibre causes around 30 in 100 bowel cancer cases (around 30 percent) in the UK.
To get more fibre in your diet try:
- Swapping to brown rice, pasta or bread
- Swapping your snack to low calorie popcorn rather than crisps
- Choosing wholegrain breakfast cereals
- Eating more fruit and vegetables high in fibre, such as peas and Raspberries.
It’s doubly important to eat healthily because unhealthy eating is a cause of bowel cancer, warns Cancer Research UK.
Obesity means being very overweight with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher. And being overweight is a BMI of between 25 and 30.
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