Diseases Cancer

What Is Bowel Cancer

Introduction

Bowel cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer. Early screening for the disease with a colonoscopy can help find the disease early. Screening for bowel cancer is usually recommended for people who are 50 years and older. For people with a strong family history of bowel cancer, it is recommended that screenings begin at the age of 45. Some medical professionals recommend yearly screenings for bowel cancer, while some recommend periodic screenings every five years. Consult with your physician to determine the proper time for bowel cancer screenings.

Overview

Bowel cancer is a disease that starts out by affecting the large bowel. The cancer is also sometimes known as rectal or colon cancer. Bowel cancer is second in cancers that lead to death. Depending on the progression of the disease at the time of diagnosis, survival rates can range from 40 to 50 percent. Bowel cancer occurs when the cells that line the bowel mutate and form a clump of cancerous cells. Several factors can put a person at a higher risk of developing bowel cancer. Risk factors include a poor diet and genetics. Researchers have found that people who do not eat diets that are high in fiber are more at risk of developing bowel cancer. DNA also plays a role in approximately 10 percent of all cases of the disease. People who have a family history of other diseases that affect the bowel including Crohn's disease are more likely to develop bowel cancer also.

Symptoms

In its earliest stages, bowel cancer usually does not cause any symptoms. The lack of symptoms has it more difficult to diagnose the disease at its onset. Frequent diarrhea and constipation are two of the most common symptoms of bowel cancer. As the disease progresses, abdominal pain and vomiting can also occur. Some bowel cancer sufferers may also suffer from several iron-deficiency anemia. The anemia is caused by the loss of small amounts of blood as a result of cancerous tumors obstructing the colon. In turn, the anemia can lead to secondary symptoms such as fatigue and shortness of breath. As the disease progresses, some sufferers may experience loss of appetite which can result in extreme weight loss. Hemorrhoids may also develop as a result of the disease.

Treatment

The treatment of cancer bowel varies depending on the progression of the disease. The sufferer's overall health and family history are also taken into account when charting the course of treatment. Traditional treatment methods such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery are considered the best treatments for the disease. In fact, most physicians will recommend the removal of the cancerous tumor coupled with radiation therapy as the first line of treatment. Chemotherapy is usually considered if the disease continues to progress or spreads to other parts of the body. With the proper treatment, up to 60 percent of people who are diagnosed with bowel cancer can expect to recover. If the cancer is caught in its earliest stages, the number jumps to up to 90 percent.

By Laurel Moore, published at 02/23/2012
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