Bowel cancer: The ‘feeling’ after passing faces that can signal the deadly disease

Dr Hilary Jones discusses bowel cancer awareness acronym

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The likelihood of surviving cancer depends in large part on when the disease is detected and bowel cancer is no exception. However, bowel cancer symptoms can be vague and wrongly attributed to less serious conditions. This inevitably delays diagnosis and dampens prospects.

Due to the location of the cancer – the large bowel – many of the symptoms surface when going to the toilet.

One major red major flag is “a feeling of not fully emptying the rectum after passing faeces”, warns the Glasgow Colorectal Centre (GCC).

The health body explains: “This feeling can be painful. Alternatively some patients with cancers low in the rectum may complain of a repeated painful, ineffective desire to want to move their bowel (called tenesmus)”

Other telltale signs include:

  • Rectal bleeding
  • Passing mucus with the faeces.
  • A change in bowel habit from your usual bowel habit
  • Abdominal pain/cramp.

How to respond

According to the NHS, you should see a GP if you have any of the symptoms of bowel cancer for three weeks or more.

“When you first see a GP, they’ll ask about your symptoms and whether you have a family history of bowel cancer,” explains the health body.

“They’ll usually carry out a simple examination of your bottom, known as a digital rectal examination (DRE), and examine your tummy (abdomen).”

This is a useful way of checking whether there are any lumps in your tummy or bottom (rectum).

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Am I at risk?

The exact cause of bowel cancer is unknown. However, research has shown several factors may make you more likely to develop it.

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

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

It is very difficult to research the link between diet and cancer but some foods can definitely affect the risk of bowel cancer.

Numerous 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.

Eating too much processed meat can lead to obesity – another cause of bowel cancer.

Cancer Research UK estimates 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. And being overweight is a BMI of between 25 and 30.

BMI is a measure that uses your height and weight to work out if your weight is healthy.

Exercise can also promote weight loss while reducing the risk of bowel cancer directly.

There is strong evidence which shows that people who are more physically active have a lower risk of bowel cancer.

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