Bowel Cancer Signs


No... Don’t stop reading because you feel awkward, it’s so important that you know the signs and symptoms. 16,000 people die of bowel cancer a year; this really can be lowered by a huge amount if people get it diagnosed early.

OK, I make no apologies for this blog, I’m going to be talking about poo. I know, some of you will find this very distasteful, others, who enjoy a bit of toilet humour, will have a little giggle about the word poo. The fact is, we all do it!

Many people, if they have something worrying them in the nether regions, delay going to see their GP because they are embarrassed.  What amazes me is that people don’t seem to have  problem talking to each other about how many times they go to the loo, how long they are in there and what they produced (gross!).  But, ask them to talk to their Doctor if they are worried and they suddenly become shy. Your GP will see so many body parts that unless yours is anatomically comically different to every other human being on the planet, he/she is not going to fall about laughing as soon as you drop your drawers! Your bum is going to be as normal to their working day as a PC is to an IT specialist- it’s just part of their job.

Not all problems mean that there is something seriously wrong, we all have different bowel habits. It is important to know that what is right for you may differ from what someone else does. Some people go to the loo several times a day, while others go once a week. What you need to look out for are any changes that are new to you.

Remember: B-O- W- E- L

  • B- Bleeding from your bum and/or in your poo: Most of us will have this time to time; it doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer. You may have been constipated and you’ve had an uncomfortable time in the loo which can result in a small tear which can bleed. Or it could be haemorrhoids, otherwise known as piles, which can cause massive pain and bleeding. If the problem doesn’t settle down, speak to your GP.
  • O- Obvious changes in your bowel habits lasting more than three weeks: especially if it’s loose or runny poo. Obviously, you will have the odd upset tummy but if it’s constant for three weeks you need to see your GP.
  • W- Weight loss you can’t explain: If you’re not consciously trying to lose weight and you haven’t increased your activity levels but you’re noticeably losing weight, it’s best to get yourself checked out.
  • E - Extreme tiredness: If your daily routine hasn’t changed but you are feeling really tired for no reason, have a chat with your GP.
  • L – Lump or pain in your tummy: If it’s not going away, book with your GP.

Remember, these symptoms don’t necessarily mean that you have bowel cancer, but, get yourself checked out to put your mind at rest.

Decreasing the risk of developing bowel cancer

Your diet can help to keep your bowel healthy and make it easier for you to go to the loo avoiding constipation which can lead to painful piles.

  • Avoid processed food- such as bacon, ham, sausages, burgers, salami. I’m not saying don’t eat any of these ever, but, only have them occasionally, not every day.
  • Limit red meat- Red meat sits in your gut from between 24-72 hours. It does have health benefits but, because it takes so long to digest, it’s best to limit it to an 80g portion, about the size of a deck of cards if you are eating it every day.
  • Eat lots of fibre- There are two types of fibre; insoluble and soluble. Insoluble helps to keep the bowel healthy and avoids us being constipated by keeping the digestive system moving. Wheat and spelt, brown rice, raisins, root veg skins, seeds and nuts are all good sources of insoluble fibre. Oats, berries, apples, celery, carrots, cucumber, beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas are soluble foods which help promote healthy gut bacteria and lower cholesterol by slowing down digestion. It’s best to introduce fibre gradually to your diet. It’s not a good idea to go from zero fibre to eating nothing else but! Your stomach and your friends won’t thank you for it as a product of too much fibre is wind! You may also bloat and feel very uncomfortable.
  • Drink lots of water- Aim for 6-8 glasses a day. Fibre attracts water to help to bulk it up so the digestive system keeps regular.
  • Keep body weight to a healthy level- there is known to be an increase in bowel cancer in people who are overweight or obese.
  • Being physically active- helps to reduce inflammation in the bowel, reduce insulin and boost the immune system. Try to do at least 30 minutes activity a day, five times a week. This is a great way to get the digestive system moving!
  • Stop smoking- smokers are more likely to develop polyps which are growths in the bowel which if left undetected over time could turn into cancer.
  • Drink alcohol within the guideline- This is now 14 units a week for men and women. For more information visit NHS Know Your Limits.
  • Take part in a bowel cancer screening when invited- If you are invited to have a screening test, have it! Early detection is so important.

So, get to know your bowel habits, eat a healthy diet, get plenty of exercise, drink lots of water, look out for any changes and give your bum the best chance of staying healthy!

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