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Abdominal distention could signal deadly cancer blocking the bowel

Bowel cancer: Dr Hilary outlines the main symptoms

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Bowel cancer is the second most deadly form of the disease in the UK, accounting for around 10 percent of cancer deaths. It is also the fourth most common cancer in the region, with roughly 120 new diagnoses made every day. Therefore, being aware of the symptoms could be potentially lifesaving.

Also known as colorectal cancer, the disease starts in the lining of the large bowel (colon) or back passage (rectum).

For this reason some of the more well-known symptoms of bowel cancer involve toilet habits.

This can include finding blood in your poo or experiencing bleeding from the rectum, for example.

Patients could also notice a change in their bowel movements such as needing to poo more than often, producing looser stools or constipation.

It could also cause a sensation of needing to strain in your back passage, even after opening your bowels.

In some cases the cancer can block the bowel, which is known as a bowel obstruction.

One symptom of a bowel obstruction is abdominal distension – where the tummy becomes swollen and bloated.

According to the NHS this can be accompanied by abdominal pain.

If you think you are experiencing a bowel obstruction you should seek medical help as soon as possible.

Cancer Research UK says: “A bowel obstruction is an emergency.

“You should see your doctor quickly or go to A&E at your nearest hospital if you think you have a bowel obstruction.”

Other warning signs of a bowel obstruction include:

  • Cramping pains in the abdomen
  • Constipation and being unable to pass wind
  • Being sick.

Other symptoms of bowel cancer, not caused by an obstruction include:

  • Bleeding from the back passage or blood in your poo
  • A change in your normal bowel habit, such as looser poo, pooing more often or constipation
  • A lump that your doctor can feel in your back passage or tummy, more commonly on the right side
  • A feeling of needing to strain in your back passage (as if you need to poo), even after opening your bowels
  • Losing weight
  • Pain in your abdomen or back passage
  • Tiredness and breathlessness.

There are a number of factors that can increase your risk of developing bowel cancer including things like being overweight or obese, smoking, drinking alcohol and family history.

However, Cancer Research UK, says diet also has an influence.

Specifically it warns against eating too much red and processed meat and not eating enough fibre.

“Many studies have shown that eating lots of red and processed meat increases the risk of bowel cancer,” the charity says.

“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.

“Eating too little fibre causes around 30 in 100 bowel cancer cases in the UK.”

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  • Posted on February 11, 2023