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Dr Hilary Jones discusses bowel cancer awareness acronym

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Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK and the second biggest cancer killer. Over 42,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year in the UK. Around 268,000 people living in the UK today have been diagnosed with bowel cancer. Spotting the unusual early warning signs is key with any type of cancer. What should you look for?

Bowel cancer might not cause symptoms right away, but if it does, it may cause one or more of these symptoms:

  • A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhoea, constipation, anafranil fatiga or narrowing of the stool, that lasts for more than a few days
  • A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that’s not relieved by having one
  • Rectal bleeding with bright red blood
  • Blood in the stool, which might make the stool look dark brown or black
  • Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Unintended weight loss

The National Library of Health describes tenesmus as being a potential warning sign of cancer.

The health site said: “Tenesmus or the feeling of having to defecate without having stools, pain upon defecation, or sciatica can be symptoms of rectal cancer.

“Sciatica is an ominous symptom, signifying locally advanced rectal cancer with major neural involvement by the tumour.”

Rectal tenesmus is a feeling of being unable to empty the large bowel of stool, even if there is nothing left to expel.

Several medical conditions can cause tenesmus.

These include inflammatory bowel disease, bowel cancer and disorders that affect how muscles move food through the gut.

The condition can be painful, especially if there is cramping or other digestive symptoms alongside it.

The symptoms can come and go, or they may persist long term.

Tenesmus often refers to cramping rectal pain and gives a person the feeling that they need to have a bowel movement, even if they’re already had one.

Other conditions associated with tenesmus include:

  • Colon infection, which can be caused by organisms, such as a bacteria or virus
  • Ischemic colitis, an inflammation of the colon due to decreased blood flow to that area
  • Diverticulitis, caused by inflammation of bulges in the wall of the colon
  • Inflammation of the colon due to radiation
  • The abnormal movement of food or waste in the digestive tract
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • A prolapsed haemorrhoid
  • A rectal abscess
  • Rectal gonorrhoea

Who’s at risk of developing bowel cancer?

Your risk of developing bowel (colon and rectal) cancer depends on many things including age, genetics and lifestyle factors.

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

According to Cancer Research UK, it is estimated that around 13 out of 100 bowel cancer cases in the UK are linked to eating these meats.

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.
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