Merlin Griffiths says he is 'doing well' after Bowel cancer diagnosis
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Bowel cancer is one of the most common cancers, and also one of the most dangerous. Cancer research ranks it as the third most deadly form of the disease. According to the NHS, symptoms of the disease can be “subtle” and may not make you ill. Two of these quiet symptoms may strike you on the toilet.
Colon cancer – in which less than one in 10 survive past stage four – starts in the large intestine.
The large intestine is a massive tube-like organ that takes in water and waste material and turns it into a stool.
The disease often begins in the form of benign lumps called polyps on the walls of the organ. Polyps can be small, and be unlikely to bring on symptoms – make it important to go for regular screening to help spot them and get rid of them before they grow into cancer.
But when the polyps start to grow or turn cancerous, they can start to get in the way of processes in your large intestine. As a result, you might notice things change for you on the toilet.
According to Regional Cancer Care Associates [RCCA], “many colon cancer patients report experiencing increased frequency and urgency of bowel movements”
The health body also explains that “diarrhoea and constipation” are other “common signs”.
Constipation may be down to colon cancer narrowing your bowel, which stops your stool from passing through. Doctors call this bowel obstruction.
Diarrhoea occurs because of an overflow of fluid in the intestine, caused by the obstruction of the organ.
These toilet dilemmas can be a symptom of other conditions, of course. Common viruses and bacteria can also cause infect your bowel and cause diarrhoea.
According to the NHS, diarrhoea is usually a symptom of gastroenteritis, which can be caused by salmonella or viruses like norovirus – also known as the vomiting bug – and rotavirus.
But the RRCA suggests that if you “experience any unusual bowel movements that worsen over time, be sure to bring it up to your doctor”.
However, there are some bowel symptoms that might alarm you a lot quicker and may require medical attention.
The RRCA explains: “One of the major symptoms that prompts many patients to seek medical care is the sudden appearance of blood in the stool.”
The blood comes from your rectum, which can be damaged by bowel cancer.
Bowel cancer is often known as colon or colorectal cancer because the tumour can also affect the rectum or colon.
However, in most cases, blood in the stools is a sign of haemmorrhoids (piles).
Alongside changes in your stools, bowel cancer can cause some other signs that are similar to the signs of other cancers.
Unintended weight loss and tiredness are often symptoms of bowel cancer. The RCCA suggests that many patients attribute the tiredness to stress when it’s actually the disease sparking problems.
There are many factors that bump up your risk of bowel cancer, some less controllable than others.
The majority of people with bowel cancer are over 50, although anyone at any age can get it.
Having a family history of colon cancer in your family may also put you at higher odds. As can consuming a low-fibre and high-fat diet. “Colon cancer and rectal cancer may be associated with a typical Western diet, which is low in fibre and high in fat and calories,” explains Mayo Clinic.
But your risk can be lowered by eating a healthy balanced diet, quitting smoking, exercising most days of the week, keeping a healthy body weight, and limiting alcohol consumption.
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