Bowel cancer is one of the most common cancers in the UK and there are a few critical symptoms that mean you should go to A&E.
Although it is typically associated with older people, Bowel Cancer UK notes that 2,500 younger people in the UK are diagnosed with the cancer every year.
It’s the third most common cancer in the UK and it’s also known under different names depending on where it starts – colon cancer, rectal cancer, or colorectal cancer.
Bowel obstructions are a medical emergency, says the NHS, and you should go to the nearest hospital’s A&E if you suspect you have one
Signs of bowel cancer and bowel obstructions shouldn’t be ignored, The Express reported.
Bowel obstruction symptoms
Cancer Research UK says: “Sometimes cancer can block the bowel. This is called a bowel obstruction.”
A bowel obstruction is much more common with advanced cancer.
Symptoms of bowel obstructions include cramping pains in the abdomen, feeling bloated, constipation and being unable to pass wind, and being sick.
The charity says: “A bowel obstruction is an emergency. You should see your doctor quickly or go to A&E at your nearest hospital if you think you have a bowel obstruction.”
It adds: “If you notice any possible cancer symptoms or any changes that are unusual for you, contact your doctor because early cancer diagnosis saves lives.”
The charity says a bowel obstruction means there is a blockage in the bowel, and it is “a serious complication, which is much more common with advanced cancer”.
Macmillan says: “Sometimes, colon cancer can narrow the bowel, which stops poo (stools) from passing through. This is called a bowel obstruction. It is sometimes called an intestinal obstruction.”
What is bowel cancer?
The bowel is part of the digestive system which is necessary for breaking down food and moving undigested waste along towards the rectum to be excreted from the body.
Bowel Cancer UK notes that over 42,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year in the UK.
The charity says that one in 15 men and one in 18 women will be diagnosed with bowel cancer during their lifetime. Therefore, it says if you have any symptoms, don’t be embarrassed and don’t ignore them.
Black Panther actor Chadwick Boseman sadly died of colorectal cancer at the age of 43 in 2020.
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Bowel cancer symptoms
The NHS’ list of bowel cancer symptoms includes:
- Persistent blood in your poo – that happens for no obvious reason or is associated with a change in bowel habit
- A persistent change in your bowel habit – which is usually having to poo more and your poo may also become more runny
- Persistent lower abdominal (tummy) pain, bloating or discomfort – that’s always caused by eating and may be associated with loss of appetite or significant unintentional weight loss
Unsurprisingly, this means many symptoms can show up when you go to the toilet.
Bleeding from your bottom when you go to the toilet, or signs of blood in your poo is one of the most common signs of bowel cancer.
Blood after you poo can be caused by a number of different, less serious, issues like haemorrhoids or an anal fissure.
Some people also report feeling like they haven’t fully emptied their bowels after going to the toilet.
If you notice changes in the consistency of your poo, and there’s no obvious cause – such as constipation or a stomach bug – you should see a doctor.
Can bowel cancer be cured?
Bowel Cancer UK says bowel cancer is treatable and curable “especially if diagnosed early”.
Sadly, survival rates drop as the disease develops, so the charity says “early diagnosis really does save lives”.
The NHS explains: “When you first see a GP, they’ll ask about your symptoms and whether you have a family history of bowel cancer.”
According to the health body, your GP may carry out a number of tests. It says: “They’ll usually carry out a simple examination of your bottom, known as a digital rectal examination (DRE), and examine your tummy (abdomen).”
How do you reduce your bowel cancer risk?
There are also a number of ways to reduce your risk. Cancer Research says that eating a diet with lots of foods high in fiber reduces your risk of bowel cancer. The charity says that around nine in 10 people in the UK are not meeting the recommended amount of fiber a day.
The NHS says that government guidelines say our dietary fiber intake should increase to 30g a day, as part of a healthy balanced diet. Most adults are only eating an average of about 18g a day.
According to Cancer Research, a linked risk factor is obesity.
It is estimated that 11 out of 100 bowel cancers (11 percent) in the UK are linked to being overweight or obese.
The charity says one should try to keep a healthy weight by being physically active and eating a healthy, balanced diet.
“There is strong evidence which shows that people who are more physically active have a lower risk of bowel cancer,” it adds.