The leading cause of bowel cancer exposed – could you be affected?

Symptoms of bowel cancer include bleeding from the bottom, a prolonged change in bowel habits and unexplained weight loss. What causes this deadly disease to develop?

According to the charity Guts UK, the lining of the bowel constantly renews itself throughout our lives.

The lining of the bowel is made up of millions of tiny cells, which grow, serve their purpose and then new cells take their place.

This process is controlled by DNA within the cells; when the DNA becomes faulty, the cells can grow too quickly.

This can lead to the formation known as a polyp – a prerequisite for some cancers.

“We believe that all malignancies of the bowel probably start off as benign polyps,” stated Guts UK.

What are polyps?

Polyps are fleshy growths on the inside of the bowel; normally, benign (non-cancerous), the polyps can become malignant (cancerous).

Polyps tend to be more common in men than women, and are rather unusual below the age of 40.

A certain type of polyp – known as an adenoma polyp – has been identified by experts as more likely to turn cancerous.

At present, around one in 10 adenomatous polyps will become cancerous.

This type of polyp starts out as a tiny bump on the surface of the bowel – some can remain very small (less than one centimetre) while others continue to grow.

The removal of benign polyps can help prevent the development of the rare ones that become cancerous.

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Up to 10 percent of people who tend to have polyps may do so because of genetic inheritance.

Most people will be unaware that they have polyps, as they don’t usually cause any symptoms.

Polyps are often discovered during a colonoscopy during a health investigation.

What’s a colonoscopy?

This is when a tube, connected to a highly magnified video system, is passed through the anus into the nearest part of the small intestine.

This enables doctors to gain an accurate picture of the lining of the intestine to check for polyps.

This could take place after bleeding from the bottom has been discussed with a GP.

Another possible reason for a colonoscopy could be due to excess mucus or slime coming from the back passage.

Occasionally, a polyp can grow so large that it can cause a blockage in the bowel, causing pain.

Polyps can be removed painlessly, which can then be sent off to the laboratory for microscopic analysis.

This will reveal if it has the potential to develop malignancy, and whether bowel cancer is already present.

If this is the case, a follow-up examination will be required to check if new polyps have grown.

Should cancer be discovered, treatments for bowel cancer can begin – effectively saving your life.

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