Bowel Cancer

Bowel cancer is a malignancy (cancerous cells that can invade, spread and destroy tissue) that arises from the inner lining of the colon (part of the digestive system where the waste material is stored) or rectum. It is characterized by the development of malignant cells in the lining or epithelium of the large intestine. These malignant cells invade the surrounding local tissue and may spread throughout the body. It is also known as colon cancer or colorectal cancer.

Bowel cancer is often curable, and it is the most common cancer occurring in both men and women. It usually occurs in people aged 50 or above, and is one of the risk factor for bowel cancer. Risk factors for developing colon cancer include obesity, smoking, diet that is high in fat, family history of bowel cancer and polyps (growths inside the colon and rectum) that may become cancerous. Symptoms can include, thin stools, blood in the stool, a change in the bowel habits, abdominal discomfort, unexplained weight loss, fatigue and very rarely nausea and vomiting.

It is diagnosed by screening, colonoscopy is the method used to screen for bowel cancer. Colonoscopy is a procedure used to see inside the colon and rectum. The procedure is performed using an instrument called colonoscope, a flexible tube attached with a small camera. The procedure can detect inflamed tissue, ulcers, and abnormal growths. It is used to look for early signs of colorectal cancer and can help the physician to diagnose unexplained changes in bowel habits, abdominal pain, bleeding from the anus, and weight loss.

The bowel cancer is preventable and curable. The primary treatment for stage I through III colon cancer is to surgically remove all or part of the colon. Polyps may be removed during colonoscopy.

Colostomy is a surgical procedure that creates an opening from one end of the large intestine out though the abdominal wall, for elimination of body wastes. Wastes are then collected into a bag attached to the abdomen. It can be either temporary or permanent. The surgery is done under general anaesthesia. It may either be done with open surgery or laproscopically. In open surgery, a large incision is made in the abdomen. The one end of the healthy colon is brought out through the skin of the abdominal wall, and sewing it to the skin. A bag is attached around the opening to allow stool to drain. Other treatments may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy or a combination.

Chemotherapy is used as an adjunct to surgery. It is a chemical treatment, to help the body to kill off cancer cells and try to keep them from dividing. Chemotherapy used after surgery can prolong survival rate. It is usually recommended for stage III and stage IV colon cancer.

Radiation treatment given before surgery may reduce the tumour size and also reduce the recurrence of cancer after treatment.

There is no absolute method for prevention of bowel cancer. High fibre diets and vitamins, avoiding smoking and alcohol, avoiding obesity and a healthy life style can lessen risk and to this degree prevent the disease.

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