Bowel Cancer - What Everybody Needs to Know!

Cancer of the bowel is a very serious condition, however if diagnosed early enough can in many cases be curable. This article outlines the latest research and discusses treatment options so that you can be in the know regarding what bowel cancer is and how it may affect you.

What is it?

Cancer begins when some of the cells that are always dividing in the body begin to go haywire in such a way that they create a mass of cells known as a tumor. Not all of these tumors are incredibly dangerous, however many are and one of the worries is that part of the tumor will get into your blood stream and divide in other areas of your body. Any tumor, even those that are not caused by cancer may need removal as these may turn into cancer later on. Bowel cancer occurs in the part of your body that is known for breaking down and allowing you to absorb the foods that you eat. When you eat food it travels through your stomach and then into the bowel for further digestion. There is a large and a small bowel and for the purposes of this article we will be focusing on the large bowel that is the last part of bowel before food is expelled from your body via the anus. There are a few parts of the large bowel and the most heard of are the colon and rectum and so you may hear of bowel cancer being referred to as colon or rectal cancer.


It is rather common not to get any symptoms when you first get bowel cancer, however over time they usually develop. The symptoms that do occur are things such as an alteration in the normal toilet pattern such as diarrhea or constipation. There may be blood visible in the stools and you may also suffer from cramps, bloating and excessive passing of wind. Blood in the stools can make you become anemic and you may feel tired and look pale as a result. Weight loss is a common symptom as well as night sweats and fatigue. Your stools may appear to be more narrow than usual. If you think that you may be suffering from the above set of symptoms and you are worried about bowel cancer then you should see your doctor who will arrange tests. If you do have cancer then your doctor will want to know how advanced this cancer is. This is call staging and will usually be represented by a series of letters and numbers that will mean nothing to you, but will be explained by your doctor. Knowing how advanced the cancer is will determine what treatments can be offered.


Fortunately cancers that grow in the bowel can be treated and if caught early you generally have a very good outcome. Surgery is the number one method of treatment for this type of cancer and will usually occur by means of removing the affected part of your bowel. In addition to surgery you may also need a combination of radio and/or chemotherapy.

In the case of surgery, your surgeon will try to remove all of the cancer cells if your cancer was caught early enough. This offers the best chance of getting rid of the cancer completely. In some cases the cancer has spread too far to be cured by surgery, however the surgeon may still want to remove as much as possible to slow the progress of the cancer or to clear the blockage created in your bowel. The type of operation that is required depends on the extent of the cancer i.e. if the cancer is small as in the case of a polyp then a small operation using a scope will do the trick. However if the tumor is bigger then you may need to have some of the bowel removed and then reattached. Fortunately the bowel is quite long and so if some of it is removed then you will most likely be fine and hardly notice the bit that is missing. If the last part of your bowel called the rectum is affected then you may need to have a small bag attached to the outside of your body to catch the stools. This bag is known as a colostomy bag and in many cases this may only be temporary while the operated on piece of bowel heals. If you do need a colostomy then you will be happy to know that modern technology allows a bag that will not smell, can not be seen and will allow you to continue with most daily tasks without ant interference.

Chemotherapy is another option and this is a type of therapy that uses drugs to kill cancer cells. These drugs kill cancer cell in your entire body and so they are good for killing the cancer cells that may have been missed by radiotherapy and/or surgery. These drugs are usually given as injections and can make you feel quite sick while you are having the course of treatment.

Radiotherapy uses high energy X rays that are designed to kill cancer cells and are not used that often for cancer that affects the colon. Radiotherapy is more effective in cancer of the rectum and can be used to shrink a tumor prior to surgery. This method of treatment can also be used after you have an operation and can be used to kill any cancer cells that are left behind.


This condition is serious and can prove to be fatal if caught in the later stages of the disease. However if caught early this has a good outcome and most people will be completely cured. If you are lucky enough to have been cured then you may worry about the cancer coming back and you can talk to your doctor about how likely this is. They may also be able to give you advice on how you can prevent the cancer reoccurring. After being treated for bowel cancer you will have regular check ups and there is good evidence to show that being checked out often can help you to live longer. If you get any symptoms that are worrying to you then you should see your doctor right away and get things checked out. Most people who are diagnosed with this illness say that it came as a big shock, however most people deal with the shock and say that their illness helps to put their life in to perspective and allows them to focus on the things in life that really mean a lot to them.

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