Bowel cancer symptoms: How your poop and its frequency tells whether you should be tested

Bowel cancer is a cancer that starts in the large bowel. Depending on where it starts, it is sometimes also called colon or rectal cancer. It is a common cancer worldwide. According to Dr. Pramod Kumar Julka, Senior Director, Medical Oncology, Max Institute of Cancer Care, Lajpat Nagar, “In India, these cases are rapidly increasing and there are more and more young adults with bowel cancer.” “25000-30000 colorectal cancers as per national statistics in 2021. Colorectal cancer is more common in elderly above 50 years of age and comprise 2 percent of all cancers,” adds Dr Bhaskar Vishwanathan, Professor and Head of Radiation Oncology, Amrita Hospital, Faridabad.

Signs of bowel cancer


People who are most often diagnosed with bowel cancer report absolute constipation or diarrhea and blood in the stool and sometimes pain in the abdomen, which are some typical symptoms of bowel cancer, shares Dr Pramod. The signs that need attention are disturbed bowel habits like going to the loo for 3-4 times in a day and having alternate diarrhea.

In simpler terms, if you notice bleeding in stools not related to hemorrhoids, recent onset of constipation, incomplete bowel evacuation and a need to have bowel movement that is not relieved by having one, altered bowel habits, decreased appetite, narrowing of the stool that is persistent and persisting pain in the abdomen, you should reach out to your doctor.

If a person suffers from constipation for a long period of time then the stool should be tested for occult blood.
Is excessive flatulence risky?


Excessive flatulence could be due to simple factors like eating too much lentils and beans, vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower or drinking carbonated drinks, lactose intolerance, food intolerance, and celiac disease gluten sensitivity. “It could be a sign of benign diseases like dyspepsia, inflammatory bowel disease like crohns and ulcerative colitis, or due to irritable bowel syndrome. It could also be a sign of colorectal cancers,” adds Dr Vishwanathan.
Healthy practices to keep your bowel healthy


Avoiding eating junk food

Eating proper meals at proper time

Have fiber rich diet

Increase intake of fruits and vegetables

Exercising regularly

Keeping weight under control

Cut consumption of red meat and processed meat

Avoid smoking and alcohol

“People are eating a lot of junk or street food. It’s becoming common with people eating burgers etc which is not very healthy for our bowel and in worse cases, it leads to bowel cancer which means having a healthy lifestyle and eating homemade properly cooked food. Avoiding smoking and alcohol as a habit. All in all a person needs to lead a healthy lifestyle to avoid bowel cancer,” explains Dr Pramod.

Timely diagnosis is key


Everyone should be screened after the age of 45 years for the presence of occult blood in stools (guaic based,fecal immunochemical testing), CT colonography pelvis once in 5 years in case of individuals with a family history of colon cancer, ulcerative colitis, crohns disease, or cystic fibrosis, adds Dr Bhaskar.

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