Bowel cancer will affect one in twenty people with over 40,000 cases being treated or reported each year. It’s more common to develop in the large intestine rather than the small intestine.
The most common symptoms of Bowel cancer are:-
Blood in your stools Loose or more frequent stools Stomach pain
However, a stomach pain can be caused by IBS, something you’ve eaten or being unwell. Blood in your stools can be haemorrhoid or piles.
It is when these symptoms are persistent that a visit to your GP is definitely in order. But to be safe rather than sorry you should go to your doctors with any health concerns you might have.
In most cases of bowel cancer it first develops inside clumps of cells on the inner lining of the bowel. These clumps are called polyps and it does not necessarily mean you will get bowel cancer.
What causes cancer is unknown but common factors have been pointed out such as diet, age, smoking, drinking, weight and lack of exercise. However with Bowel cancer there can be a higher risk of development if you suffer from Crohn’s disease, digestive conditions or rare inherited conditions called
Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) – a condition that triggers the growth of non-cancerous polyps inside the bowel
Hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) – an inherited gene fault which increases your bowel cancer risk
How to help yourself
There has been extensive research and diet has found to really help prevent bowel cancer. Fibre being one of the food types to really help keep your bowel healthy.
Eating lots of fibre related foods can help keep the bowel clear and push any lingering acids - that can cause cancer - out of your system faster. Fruit and veg are good too due to their antioxidants that keep cells healthy. Drinking 500 to 800g of milk a day has been shown to reduce bowel cancer risk by 20 to 30%! On the other side of the scale 1 in 5 bowel cancers were linked to eating red or processed meats such as lamb, pork, veal and beef. Processed meats include sausages, salami, ham, bacon, Pate and tinned meat. Alcohol is also thought to increase risk and the more you drink the more the risk is increased.
There are many types of surgeries once you have been diagnosed depending on where it is, how large it is and if it has spread.
- Early stages mean that the surgeon will remove the lump and some healthy cells, but depending on the grade level of cancer, you might need another operation to remove more cells to make sure it has not spread.
- A colectomy is where the surgeon goes in through your abdomen, there are three types of this operation depending where the cancer is – on the left is called left hemi colectomy, the middle transverse colectomy and the right is called a right hemi colectomy. After part of the bowel has been removed the other parts get joined together and this is called anastomosis.
- Surgery to remove the whole colon is called a total colectomy and this is where a colostomy bag will be fitted, but one can be fitted if absolutely needed with the other colectomy operations.
- To remove a rectal cancer radiotherapy will be used.
- Keyhole surgery Is also used in early stages of rectal cancer
Other bowel cancer can block the bowel all together and this is obviously very serious and an operation will commence immediately.
Diet after surgery
The best foods to eat after surgery are those that don’t cause too much wind. Foods like sprouts, onions, beans, pulses, beer and larger will cause bloating and wind. Also if you have had part of your bowel removed your stools will be different due to there being more fluid in your bowel for a longer time causing diarrhoea. The after effects of radiotherapy and chemotherapy will have similar effects on your health causing diarrhoea and sickness for a time. Fluid replacement salts will be good to help cope with thirst and to build up your body again. Things will return to normal eventually but you need to find your own personal diet that will not discomfort you too much.
Help to cope
If you have had a Stoma fitted or feel emotionally drained and confused after being diagnosed with bowel cancer then you’ll need support.
It is important that you have people to talk to. There are parts of your life that will feel different to you now including relationships and your love life or even going to the beach or eating the food you like. There is lots of support out there, thousands of people who are going through the same things as you but it won’t stop it from affecting your personal world. You’ll need to find a way to get yourself back and understand what you’ve been or are going though. Find out as much as you can because the more information you have the more in control you will feel.