Medical Dictionary of Bowel Cancer

C A N C E R  I N F O R M A T I O N

Bowel Cancer

Bowel cancer is one of the most common forms of cancers. It occurs in people over 40, increasing in frequency and reaching its peak incidence at the age of 70.

The cause of bowel cancer is unknown. However, diet and genetics are thought to play their part in the formation of cancer cells. The importance of certain foods is still under discussion and no definite scientific facts can be stated. However it is considered that a diet high in meat, fat and animal protein and low fibre may play a significant part in the formation of bowel cancer.

A family history of bowel cancer may increase your chances of suffering from bowel cancer. Of the two causes diet is thought to be the more significant.

The earlier bowel cancer is diagnosed the much better are your chances of a full recovery. Approximately 90% of cases require uncomplicated surgery with removal of the affected bowel. About 10% may require a colostomy if the cancer is very low down towards the rectum. The chances of this being necessary is lessening because of newer improved surgical techniques.

Early diagnosis depends on recognising early symptoms.

These include generalised weakness associated with anaemia, blood in the faeces or gross bleeding from the back passage, a persistent feeling of indigestion and abdominal discomfort, changes in bowel habits of either diarrhoea or constipation, a sensation of not being able to completely pass a motion.

Symptoms of bowel obstruction include abdominal pain which may become instense with gross distention of the abdomen and vomiting and increasing constipation.

At some rime in our life, we all suffer occasionally from some of these symptoms, excluding bowel obstruction. However, if any of these symptoms persist they should be thoroughly investigated.

After the age of 40 it is suggested that all people should have regular tests for minute amounts amount of blood in the stools. This is called an Occult Blood Test and will help in the diagnosis of early cancer of the bowel or the presence of a bleeding polyp which can lead on to bowel cancer. This test can be arranged through your local doctor.

If there is a family history of bowel cancer you should consult your doctor regarding the necessity for more regular and extensive testing.

A diet which is is low fat and high in fibre helps to protect you against the risk of bowel cancer.

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