Cancer is a category name for range of diseases that develop when cells in a specific part of the body grow and reproduce uncontrollably. The cancerous cells can invade and destroy surrounding healthy tissue, including organs. This internal breakdown produces a range of symptoms, all of which vary depending on where the cancer has started and spread to.
Acting on the symptoms as soon as they appear is essential to improving treatment outcomes.
The problem is, assigning the warning signs to cancer can be a tall order because they are often associated with less serious conditions.
One key example of this is trapped wind, a condition whereby gas is trapped in the stomach and intestines.
The condition, which causes painful stomach cramps and bloating, is usually attributed to eating gassy culprits, such as high fibre foods.
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However, the condition can also signal a complication of bowel cancer, one of the most common types of cancer diagnosed in the UK.
The symptom is usually a result of bowel obstruction,a complication whereby bowel cancer stops digestive waste passing through the bowel, according to Cancer Research UK.
Bowel obstruction, which happens when the cancer presses on the bowel, is much more common in people with advanced cancer, explains the charity.
"People who have had surgery or radiotherapy to the tummy (abdomen) are more at risk of developing a bowel obstruction," it added.DON'T MISS
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According to the NHS, other symptoms of a bowel obstruction can include:Unintentional weight loss – with persistent abdominal painBeing sick – with constant abdominal swelling
As the health site points out, a bowel obstruction is a medical emergency.
"If you suspect your bowel is obstructed go to the accident and emergency (A&E) department of your nearest hospital," it advises.Other general symptoms of bowel cancer?
According to the NHS, more than 90 percent of people with bowel cancer have one of the following combinations of symptoms:A persistent change in bowel habit – pooing more often, with looser, runnier poos and sometimes tummy (abdominal) painBlood in the poo without other symptoms of piles (haemorrhoids) – this makes it unlikely the cause is haemorrhoids
Am I at risk?
The exact cause of bowel cancer is unknown. However, research has shown several factors may make you more likely to develop it.
The risks fall into two categories: those you cannot change, such as age and genetics, and those tied to poor lifestyle decisions.
As Cancer Research UK explains, the cancer is more common in older people.
More than 40 out of 100 bowel cancer cases in the UK each year are diagnosed in people aged 75 or over.
Many studies have also shown that eating lots of red and processed meat increases the risk of bowel cancer.
It is estimated that around 13 out of 100 bowel cancer cases in the UK are linked to eating these meats, reports Cancer Research UK.What constitutes as processed meat?
"Processed meat is any meat that has been treated to preserve it and/or add flavour - for example, bacon, salami, sausages, canned meat, or chicken nuggets," explains the charity.
Obesity, which is directly caused by eating an unhealthy diet, is linked to bowel cancer.
"It is estimated that 11 out of 100 bowel cancers (11 percent) in the UK are linked to being overweight or obese," says Cancer Research UK.