Pallor could be an indication of bowel cancer if the disease leads to a lack of iron in the body. The unhealthy, pale complexion is common with anaemia, which will also make somebody feel extremely tired. The NHS explained that people may “lack iron as a result of bleeding from the cancer”. Most people diagnosed with the condition are over the age of 60, but it can affect those much younger too.
The three main symptoms of bowel cancer include:
- Persistent blood in faeces
- Persistent change in bowel habits
- Persistent lower abdominal (tummy) pain, bloating or discomfort
The key word here is persistent, meaning if any of these warning signs linger for three weeks or more, make an appointment with your GP.
Bowel cancer UK added unexplained weight loss can also be a signal of the deadly disease.
Am I at risk of bowel cancer?
You’re more at risk of developing bowel cancer if you have one or more of the following risk factors:
- Aged over 50
- A strong family history of bowel cancer
- A history of non-cancerous growths (polyps) in your bowel
- Longstanding inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
- Type 2 diabetes
- An unhealthy lifestyle
How can I reduce my risk of bowel cancer?
Starting with your diet, you’ll need to “avoid processed meat and limit red meat”.
Examples of processed meats
In addition, it’ll help to “eat plenty of fibre from wholegrain, vegetables and fruit”.
Examples of wholegrain
- Brown rice
- Brown wheat
- Brown spelt
“Vegetables and fruit may also help to protect against bowel cancer because they contain antioxidants which help to delay or prevent cell damage,” said the charity.
You’ll also need to maintain a healthy body weight – calculate your body mass index (BMI) here.
Moving on to physical activity, people who exercise regularly have a lower risk of bowel cancer.
“Try to do at least 30 minutes of physical activity such as brisk walking, five times a week,” advised the charity.
Alcohol consumption has been linked to bowel cancer and, for cancer prevention, “it’s best not to drink at all”.
For those who do want to engage in a tipple here and there, the charity advises to drink no more than 14 units in a week, and to have alcohol-free days.
Bowel cancer has also been linked to smoking, with the cancer risk increasing with the number of cigarettes smoked per day.
“We know that smokers are more likely to develop polyps (non-cancerous growths in the bowel) which could turn into cancer if not discovered,” said Bowel Cancer UK.
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland people over the age of 60 are invited to take part in bowel cancer screening.
From April 2021, the NHS in England will start rolling out bowel screening to people over the age of 50.
Those eligible for bowel cancer screening are able to take part until they reach the age of 75.
Each of the screening programmes in the UK uses home tests which look for hidden blood in faeces.