Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, is a type of cancer that affects the large intestine and rectum. It is the third most common cancer in the world and is responsible for over 700,000 deaths annually. However, with early detection and proper treatment, the survival rate for bowel cancer is relatively high.
Symptoms and Signs of Bowel Cancer
The early stages of bowel cancer often show no symptoms, which is why regular screenings are important for early detection. However, as the cancer progresses, some common symptoms may appear, including:
- Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool
- A change in bowel habits, such as constipation or diarrhea
- Abdominal pain or cramping
- Unexplained weight loss
- Fatigue or weakness
- Anemia (a condition in which there is a lack of red blood cells)
If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention right away. These symptoms can also be caused by other conditions, such as hemorrhoids or inflammatory bowel disease, so a proper diagnosis is necessary to determine the cause.
Diagnosis of Bowel Cancer
If your doctor suspects that you may have bowel cancer, they will perform a physical examination and take a detailed medical history. They may also order one or more of the following tests to confirm a diagnosis:
- Colonoscopy: This is a test that uses a thin, flexible tube with a camera on the end to examine the inside of the colon and rectum. It is considered the gold standard for detecting and diagnosing bowel cancer.
- Fecal occult blood test: This test checks for hidden blood in the stool, which can be a sign of bowel cancer.
- Barium enema: This test involves injecting a liquid into the rectum and colon and taking X-rays to look for any abnormalities.
- CT (computed tomography) scan: This test uses X-rays and a computer to create detailed images of the inside of the body.
- Biopsy: A small sample of tissue is taken from the suspicious area and examined under a microscope to confirm the presence of cancer.
Treatment for Bowel Cancer
The treatment plan for bowel cancer will depend on the stage of the cancer, the location of the tumor, and the overall health of the patient. The most common treatments for bowel cancer include:
- Surgery: This is the most common treatment for bowel cancer. The type of surgery will depend on the stage and location of the cancer. For early-stage cancers, a polypectomy (removal of the polyp) or a local excision (removal of the cancerous tissue) may be performed. For more advanced cancers, a colectomy (removal of the colon) or a proctectomy (removal of the rectum) may be necessary.
- Chemotherapy: This treatment uses drugs to kill cancer cells. It may be used before or after surgery to shrink the tumor or to prevent the cancer from returning.
- Radiation therapy: This treatment uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells. It may be used before or after surgery to shrink the tumor or to prevent the cancer from returning.
- Targeted therapy: This treatment uses drugs that target specific mutations in the cancer cells. It may be used in combination with chemotherapy or radiation therapy to improve the effectiveness of the treatment.
In conclusion, bowel cancer is a serious condition that affects a large number of people worldwide. However, with early detection and proper treatment, the survival rate for bowel cancer is relatively high. If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, it is important to seek medical attention right away.