Bowel cancer symptoms: The one warning sign the disease has advanced
Bowel cancer symptoms can be difficult to detect as they don’t necessarily make you feel unwell.
One of the first signs include a persistent change in bowel habit – going to the toilet more often and looser stools.
But as the disease become advanced, another, less obvious symptom may appear. Advanced bowel cancer means a cancer that started in the bowel has spread to another part of the body
The most common symptoms of this, according to Cancer Research UK, is feeling tired and generally unwell.
Other symptoms depend on where the cancer is in the body. For example, as the disease progresses, the tumour can sometimes block the bowel.
This is known as bowel obstruction and other symptoms can show. These include:
- Cramping pains in the abdomen
- Feeling bloated
- Constipation and being unable to pass wind
- Being sick
The cancer charity warns: “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.”
If you’re worried about any of the initial symptoms of bowel cancer you should see your GP.
The cause of most bowel cancers is not yet known, but there are six factors that can increase your risk of getting the disease.
According to Bowel Cancer UK these are being aged over 50, a strong family history of bowel cancer, a history of non-cancerous growths in your bowel, longstanding inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, type 2 diabetes, and an unhealthy lifestyle.
It says: ““You are more at risk of getting bowel cancer if you have one or more of the following risk factors. This doesn’t mean that you will definitely get bowel cancer.
“Equally, if you don’t have any risk factors, it doesn’t mean you can’t get bowel cancer.”
You could lower your risk of bowel cancer by making some simple lifestyle changes.
Cutting back on red and processed meat could lower your risk of developing bowel cancer, according to Lizzie Tuckey, director of clinical strategy at Bupa.
Maintaining a healthy weight and reducing your alcohol intake may also prevent the disease.
Boosting the amount of fibre you’re eating is considered the best way to protect yourself against bowel cancer.
Good sources of fibre include fruit, vegetables, beans, pulses and whole grains.
One of the ways you can check to see if you’re at risk of the disease is to smell your poo after using the toilet.
Almost half of people in the UK claim to have never checked their poo, according to the Taymount Clinic.