Excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms described here in this article, then you are best to talk to your doctor. It could be nothing, and you are probably absolutely fine, but for your peace of mind, it is worth getting it checked out. But before discussing Signs and Symptoms of Bowel Cancer, it’s also important to which attribute to developing this disease:
Family History – There is evidence that bowel cancer is hereditary. According to NHS website, around 20% of people who develop bowel cancer have a close relative (mother, father, brother or sister) or a second-degree relative (grandparent, uncle or aunt) who have also had bowel cancer.
Diet – There is a vast amount of evidence that suggests a diet high in red and processed meat can increase the chances of developing bowel cancer. Therefore, it is wise to maintain a healthy diet, low in saturated fat and high in fiber in order to reduce your bowel cancer risk. You can also read my previous article about the top 5 cancer causing foods to avoid.
Smoking – Those who smoke cigarettes have an increased chance of developing bowel cancer, and other types of cancer and heart disease.
Alcohol – A major study that took place, called the EPIC study, showed alcohol was linked with bowel cancer risk. Rather worryingly, the study showed that even small amounts of alcohol can put you at an increased risk of developing bowel cancer. The EPIC study showed that for every two units of alcohol a person drinks per day, their risk of bowel cancer increases by 8%.
Obesity – Morbidly obese men and women have an increased risk of developing bowel cancer, compared to those with a healthy weight. You can start to better manage your weight by implementing these 12 simple tweaks for weight loss.
Inactivity – People who don’t exercise are more likely to develop bowel cancer than those who exercise.
Digestive Disorders – People with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are more likely to develop bowel cancer.
Genetic Conditions – There are certain inherited conditions that can cause bowel cancer, such asfamilial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), also known as Lynch syndrome, and more.
Racial and Ethnic Background – African Americans are more likely to develop bowel cancer than any other racial group in the United Sates. Jews of Eastern European descent (Ashkenazi Jews) also have a high chance of developing the disease.
Type 2 Diabetes – People with type 2 diabetes have an increases risk of developing bowel cancer. Type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer have some of the same risk factors (such as excess weight). If you suffer from type 2 diabetes, read my article about the 12 best foods to control diabetes.
Night Shift Work – The results of one study showed that people who do night shift work for at least three nights a month for at least 15 years, are more likely to develop bowel cancer. However, more research needs to be carried out in order to confirm this.
Previous Treatment for Cancer – Some studies have suggested that men who survive testicular and prostate cancer, have an increased risk of developing bowel cancer. It is thought that this is due to side-effects of the cancer treatment they receive.
Signs and Symptoms of Bowel Cancer
Some of the symptoms mentioned below have been commonly experienced by many people (such as constipation or diarrhea), but they become worrying when they are persistent or accompanied by more specific signs or bowel cancer such as bloody stools or rectal bleeding.
1. Blood in Stools
If you find blood on, or mixed in with your stools, then this could be sign that you have bowel cancer. The blood may be dark, or bright red, and mixed with mucus. Once you see your doctor, they will send off a stool sample for a laboratory analysis called a fecal occult blood test.
2. Changes in Stools
If you notice that your stools are very dark in color, or even maroon, and sticky, then this could be caused by bleeding due to bowel cancer. You may experience normal bowel movements in between these stools. You may also notice your stools becoming very narrow or ribbon-like, and the stool may only be as wide in diameter as a pen.
3. Rectal Bleeding
According to an article published in the July 2009 issue of “BMC Medicine: “Bleeding from the rectum occurs in more than half of people with colon cancer.” The blood is usually bright red and it may be found in the toilet bowl water or on the toilet paper. The blood may come after a painful bowel movement.
4. Trouble Passing Stool
Changes in passing of stools is a symptom of bowel cancer. You may experience a feeling of not completely passing a stool or you may feel the urgent need to have a bowel movement, and then you realize that there is no stool to be passed.
The blood that is lost from bowel cancer can cause anemia, which is a shortage of red blood cells in the blood. The symptoms of anemia are feeling tired a lot of the time, weak, and short of breath. Your skin may also look pale.
6. Abdominal Pain
A certain amount of abdominal discomfort is normal experience at times. However, if you suffer from gas, cramping and bloating a lot of the time, then you could be more likely to develop bowel cancer. It is best to see your doctor about your concerns.
7. Weight Loss
Bowel cancer can result in weight loss even if you are eating normally. Alternatively, you may experience complete loss of appetite. According to the July 2009, “BMC Medicine” article, more than a third of people with bowel cancer experience unexplained weight loss.
Constipation that persists more than a few days also may occur in association with colon cancer. Chronic or ongoing constipation may even increase your risk of developing colon cancer.
Persistent diarrhea is a symptom of bowel cancer. According to the “BMC Medicine” article, more than 1 in 5 people with colon cancer will experience diarrhea.
10. Nausea and Vomiting
If you are experiencing persistent nausea and vomiting for no apparent reason, then this may be a symptom of colon cancer. It is possible to experience these with or without other abdominal symptoms.
So if you suspect that something is wrong, go to see your doctor, as early detection is a key to the best possible outcome.
You might also be interested to read my article about the top 14 foods that protect against cancer development: