The bowel is that part of your digestive system where waste matter is deposited after going through the complex digestive process in your stomach and small intestine. Due to still unknown reasons, abnormal cells may proliferate in the bowel, causing various health problems that are indicators of bowel cancer.
Bowel cancer is said to be the third most common type of cancer in the world today. It affects males and females alike.
Bowel cancer appears to be prevalent among people who:
- maintain a low-fiber diet
- consume plenty of highly refined foods
- have had ulcerative colitis for more than 10 years
- are in their 60's and 70's.
Signs and symptoms of bowel cancer
If you exhibit any of the following symptoms, you should immediately seek medical advice from your GP:
- bloody stools
- sudden change in bowel movement that lasts for more than two weeks
- chronic constipation
- persistent diarrhea
- pain or tenderness in the lower abdomen
How to detect bowel cancer
Your chances of fighting bowel cancer will improve greatly if cancer is detected and treated at an early stage. The following are some of the detection procedures that your GP may recommend:
- Stool laboratory test: A stool test usually forms part of a series of laboratory tests during an annual physical check-up. In a stool laboratory test, you will be asked to provide a sample of your stool which will be tested for traces of blood.
- Rectal examination: Aside from a stool test, you may also be subjected to a rectal examination during an annual physical check-up. During this procedure, the rectum is checked for the presence of any unusual growth.
- Colonoscopy: If blood is found in your stool, your GP may recommend that your entire colon be examined more closely in a procedure called a colonoscopy. The presence of abnormal cells is usually detected during this procedure.
How to reduce your chances of developing bowel cancer
Bowel cancer does not happen overnight. Abnormal cells may grow and multiply in your bowel over a period of time. Maintaining a healthy diet may be your best defense against developing this deadly type of cancer. Establish good eating habits such as:
- Drinking plenty of water: Drinking 6 to 8 glasses of water everyday is your first step to curing constipation, which is one of the symptoms of bowel cancer. Water aids your digestive system and helps your bowel flush out waste matters that accumulate in it.
- Eating high fiber foods: Consume more fruits, vegetables and whole grains instead of high fat, refined or starchy foods. Good choices of high-fiber foods include organic brown or red rice, oats, chickpeas, beans, and insoluble fiber like psyllium husks. Most fruits and vegetables are also high in fiber. A diet that is high in fiber effectively cleans your bowel and promotes regular bowel movement. While more studies are needed to confirm that a low-fiber diet causes bowel cancer, there seems to be a high correlation between a clogged bowel and bowel cancer. Thus, keeping your bowel clean may just save you from bowel cancer.
- Probiotics: A healthy bowel requires the presence of good bacteria which can aid in digesting whatever your body's digestive juices cannot break down. Good sources of probiotics or good bacteria culture can be found in yogurt, products with lactobacilli and acidophilus.