Deborah James discusses bowel cancer signs and symptoms
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Bowel cancer is one of the most common types of cancer diagnosed in the UK, and it can refer to any cancer of the bowel, including colon or rectal cancer. Although general bowel cancer is slightly more common in men, women are more likely to die from colorectal cancer than men. On top of that, the symptoms of colon and rectal cancer can be easily confused for a bad period or something to do with the menstrual cycle. Express.co.uk reveals the three symptoms of bowel cancer in women.
Your colon and rectum are both part of the large bowel and therefore colon and rectal cancer are often referred to as bowel cancer.
Colorectal cancer is the term for colon or rectum cancer, and these types of cancer are more common in men.
However, women have a higher risk of developing right-sided colon cancer (the more aggressive form) than men, according to a study published in 2015 in the World Journal of Gastroenterology.
Another issue when it comes to diagnosing women with colorectal cancer, or more specifically colon cancer, is the fact that the symptoms are similar to menstrual symptoms.
Some symptoms of colon cancer may be easy to mistake for symptoms related to your period.
For example, the three main symptoms of bowel cancer are:
- persistent blood in your poo – that happens for no obvious reason or is associated with a change in bowel habit
- a persistent change in your bowel habit – which is usually having to poo more and your poo may also become runnier
- persistent lower abdominal (tummy) pain, bloating or discomfort – that’s always caused by eating and may be associated with loss of appetite or significant unintentional weight loss
These three symptoms are all symptoms of menstruation or conditions linked to menstruation such as endometriosis.
For example, painful abdominal cramps, a change in the bowel habit and blood in your poo are all linked to endometriosis or extreme periods.
Blood in your poo is also a symptom of anaemia, which is also more common in women who lose a lot of blood during their periods.
It’s particularly important for women to look out for signs of bowel cancer and not to just assume they’re linked to their period.
Almost nine in 10 cases of bowel cancer occur in people over 60 years old, and you can’t change your age.
You also can’t change your family history and having a close relative such as a mother, father, brother or sister who had the disease under 50 years old increases your risk.
However, while the cause of bowel cancer is not yet known, both women and men should avoid certain lifestyle habits that will increase their risk.
The NHS advises doing the following to reduce your risk:
- Eat a diet low in red or processed meats and high in fibre
- Make sure you’re not overweight or obese
- Remain active
- Reduce your alcohol intake and quit smoking
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