Bowel cancer: Five ‘changes’ in normal bodily functions that can signal cancer – Dr Amir

Deborah James discusses 'scary' bowel cancer symptoms

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Bowel cancer, like all forms of cancer, must be caught early to improve the chances of survival. This means staying alert to the warning signs and acting on them if they appear. According to Doctor Amir, a “change” in normal bodily functions can signal the deadly disease.

According to Doctor Amir, the changes to spot can be remembered with the acronym BOWEL.

These are:

B – blood in your poor bottom area
O – obvious change in bowel
W – weight loss that you cannot explain
E – extreme tiredness
L – lump or pain in your tummy.

According to Doctor Amir, you should contact your GP if you recognise any of the above symptoms.

It’s important to note that most people with these symptoms do not have bowel cancer. Other health problems can cause similar symptoms.

For example:

  • Blood in the poo when associated with pain or soreness is more often caused by piles (haemorrhoids)
  • A change in bowel habit or abdominal pain is usually caused by something you’ve eaten
  • A change in bowel habit to going less often, with harder poo, is not usually caused by any serious condition.

Nonetheless, “see a GP If you have any of the symptoms of bowel cancer for three weeks or more”, advises the NHS.

The health body continues: “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.”

As it explains, a small number of cancers can only be diagnosed by a more extensive examination of the colon.

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.

Having one or more risk factors doesn’t mean that you will definitely get bowel cancer.

Researchers have established some foods can definitely affect the risk of bowel cancer.

Many studies have shown that eating lots of red and processed meat increases the risk of bowel cancer.

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.

Tied to an unhealthy diet is obesity. It is estimated that 11 out of 100 bowel cancers in the UK are linked to being overweight or obese.

Obesity means being very overweight with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher.

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