Bowel cancer is considered one of the most common types of tumor, second only to skin cancer and breast and prostate tumors. According to the National Cancer Institute (Inca), in recent years the incidence of the disease has grown and the number of diagnoses is around 40,000 a year in Brazil.
It is estimated that about 90% of cases of bowel cancer occur due to bad habits, such as a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, obesity, a hypercaloric diet, rich in processed foods and low in fruits and vegetables. Due to the increase in the number of cases and the tendency for diagnoses to occur later, the need for prevention becomes more evident.
“When symptoms start to appear, they are usually nonspecific. When the tumor produces several associated symptoms, it is often at a more advanced stage”, says oncologist Nilson Correia, from Oncoclínicas Brasília.
The doctor emphasizes the importance of screening tests, such as fecal occult blood tests and colonoscopy from 45 years of age.
5 symptoms that could indicate bowel cancer
- Change in bowel habit. According to the doctor, it tends to manifest itself in 74% of patients. It is characterized by a sudden change in bowel function, such as diarrhea or constipation;
- Blood in the stool. It is the second most common symptom, affecting about 51% of patients, and is often associated with changes in bowel habits;
- Abdominal pain or discomfort. As it is very general, people do not usually associate this symptom with the possibility of cancer, but if the pain is recurrent, it is necessary to investigate it;
- Weakness and anemia. If the tumor presents chronic bleeding, it is possible that the patient will experience anemia and weakness;
- Weight loss for no apparent reason. If there are significant changes in weight, without diets or medications intended for this purpose, weight loss should be investigated.
Also known as colon and rectal or colorectal cancer, it covers tumors that start in the part of the large intestine – called the colon -, in the rectum and anus.Getty Images
According to data from the National Cancer Institute (Inca), it is estimated that the problem caused the death of about 20,000 people in Brazil in 2019 alone.Getty Images
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The month of March is dedicated to the dissemination of information about the disease. If caught early, bowel cancer is treatable and the patient can be cured.Getty Images
The main factors related to a higher risk of developing bowel cancer are: age equal to or over 50 years old, excess body weight and a diet low in fruits, vegetables and fiber.Getty Images
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Inflammatory bowel diseases such as chronic ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease also increase the risk of bowel cancer, as well as inherited diseases such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC).Getty Images
Other factors are a family history of bowel cancer, a personal history of bowel, ovarian, uterine, or breast cancer, as well as smoking and alcohol consumption.Getty Images
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The symptoms most associated with bowel cancer are: blood in the stool, change in bowel habits, abdominal pain or discomfort, weakness and anemia, weight loss with no apparent cause, change in stool and abdominal mass (tumor).Getty Images
Diagnosis requires biopsy (examination of a small piece of tissue taken from the suspected lesion). The sample is taken using a device introduced through the rectum (endoscope)Getty Images
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Treatment mainly depends on the size, location and extent of the tumor. When the disease is spread, with metastases to the liver, lung or other organs, the chances of cure are reduced.Getty Images
Surgery is usually the initial treatment, removing the affected part of the intestine and the lymph nodes inside the abdomen. Other stages of treatment include radiotherapy, with or without chemotherapy, to reduce the possibility of the tumor returning.Getty Images
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Maintaining adequate body weight, physical activity, as well as healthy eating are essential for the prevention of bowel cancer.Getty Images
In addition, consumption of processed meats (e.g. sausage, bologna, sausage, ham, bacon, turkey blanquet, turkey breast, salami) should be avoided and red meat consumption limited to 500 grams of cooked meat per week.Getty Images
Measures that help prevent bowel cancer
- Practice physical exercises regularly;
- Do not smoke;
- Do not drink alcoholic beverages;
- Avoid smoked, canned or sausage foods;
- Reduce the consumption of foods with dyes/and or preservatives;
- Remove polyps in the intestine, if diagnosed by colonoscopy, which is indicated for all individuals over 45 years of age;
- Initiate early disease screening for individuals who have a family history;
- Maintain a diet high in fiber and low in animal fat.
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