What is bowel cancer and how can I spot the early signs?

By Suuumati

Published on:

George Alagiah, an esteemed journalist at BBC, passed away at the age of 67, after a courageous battle against bowel cancer, which he had been diagnosed with nine years ago.

Alagiah was first diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer in 2014, and had campaigned for better awareness of the disease CREDIT: Clara Molden

What is bowel cancer?

Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, refers to cancer that develops anywhere in the large bowel, including the colon and rectum. The large bowel is a vital part of the digestive system, responsible for water absorption from food and elimination of waste from the body.

How common is bowel cancer?

Globally, bowel cancer ranks as the third most common type of cancer. Shockingly, in the year 2020 alone, there were nearly 2 million diagnosed cases. Regrettably, bowel cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths, claiming the lives of nearly 1 million individuals every year.

What causes bowel cancer?

While the exact cause of bowel cancer may not be pinpointed in every case, several risk factors have been identified. These include a diet high in red or processed meats and low in fiber, obesity, lack of physical activity, and excessive alcohol consumption. Other contributing factors involve smoking and having a family history of the disease. Additionally, individuals with certain long-term conditions such as extensive ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease also face an increased risk of developing bowel cancer.

What are the symptoms of bowel cancer?

Being aware of the symptoms of bowel cancer is crucial for early detection and treatment. The main indicators to watch out for are:

  1. Persistent Blood in the Stools: If you notice blood in your stools that persists, it could be a warning sign.
  2. Change in Bowel Habits: Sudden changes in bowel habits, such as increased frequency or diarrhea, may indicate a potential problem.
  3. Lower Abdominal Pain and Bloating: Frequent discomfort and bloating in the lower abdomen should not be ignored.
  4. Loss of Appetite and Unintentional Weight Loss: Experiencing a loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss could be related to bowel cancer.
  5. Fatigue and Tiredness: Feeling overly tired and fatigued without any apparent cause may be linked to the condition.

It is essential to note that these symptoms may not always signify bowel cancer, but if they persist for more than four weeks, it is advisable to consult a GP for further evaluation.

How serious is bowel cancer?

The severity of bowel cancer depends on various factors, including the size of the cancerous growth, its spread, and the overall health of the individual. In George Alagiah’s case, he was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer in 2014, which represents the most advanced stage of the disease.

Remembering George Alagiah

George Alagiah was not only a talented BBC newsreader but also a symbol of strength and perseverance in the face of adversity. His unwavering commitment to journalism and public service left an indelible mark on the industry. Even in the midst of his own battle with cancer, he continued to inspire and inform audiences worldwide.

In conclusion, bowel cancer is a serious health concern that affects millions of lives globally. Understanding its symptoms, risk factors, and the significance of early detection can make a significant difference in its management. Let us remember George Alagiah’s legacy and strive to create awareness about bowel cancer, ultimately working towards a future where this disease can be conquered.

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