Bowel cancer, also known as colon-rectal cancer, is one of the most prolific and dangerous types of cancer. It is estimated that about 139,991 people will be diagnosed with, and more than 49,000 people will die from, bowel cancer in the United States in 2020. According to the American Cancer Society, it is the third most common form of cancer in both men and women.
When it comes to the causes of bowel cancer, there is no single, definitive cause. However, research indicates that certain lifestyle choices, such as smoking or eating a diet high in red or processed meats, can increase the risk. In addition, certain inherited gene mutations, such as the BRCA2 gene, have been linked to the development of the disease. Finally, those with a family history of bowel cancer, as well as individuals over the age of 50, are at a greater risk for developing this form of cancer.
The early symptoms of bowel cancer are often difficult to spot and can be hard to distinguish from everyday conditions. Possible warning signs to look out for include: changes in bowel habits, such as persistent constipation or diarrhoea; blood in the stools or rectal bleeding; abdominal pain or bloating; unexplained weight loss; fatigue; and rectal discomfort. Anyone who experiences any of these symptoms should speak with a doctor as soon as possible.
If bowel cancer is left untreated, it can spread to other parts of the body, leading to more serious health problems such as organ damage. To diagnose the disease, doctors may use a variety of tests, including colonoscopies, CT scans or MRI scans. If the cancer is caught early, treatments such as surgery and radiation can be extremely effective.
To reduce the risk of developing bowel cancer, individuals should maintain a healthy weight, stay physically active and eat a balanced diet that is low in red and processed meats. In addition, it is important for those over the age of 50 to get tested for the disease regularly as early detection is the key to successful treatment.
Bowel cancer can be a deadly disease, but taking the proper preventive measures can go a long way in reducing the risk. It is important for individuals of all ages to be aware of the signs and symptoms, as well as the potential causes, of this form of cancer.