As we get older our bodies change and often we mistake a common symptom for another more deadly disease. The symptoms of hemorrhoids (also called Piles) and bowel cancer can be quite similar but do not have the same fatal results. Being able to distinguish between the two can be the difference between uncomfortable bowel motions and something more serious.
In NZ statistics show that most bowel cancer sufferers are aged over 50 yrs old with only around 10% under that age.
What are Hemorrhoids?
About half the NZ population will experience hemorrhoids at one time in their lives and is most commonly associated with older people or pregnant women. Haemorrhoids are swollen blood vessels around the inside of the anus that can be irritated when going for a poo.
What are the symptoms of hemorrhoids?
- Rectal bleeding, usually bright red in colour that can be found on the toilet paper after you wipe or in the toilet bowl or on your poo.
- It can often be sore and painful when going to the toilet.
- You may feel a swelling or lump around your anus that appears on the outside and can often disappear back inside.
- Itching around the anus.
- There may be a clear mucus discharge after each bowel motion.
- You may feel the need to go again and that you have not emptied your bowels enough.
What is bowel cancer?
Bowel Cancer is a cancer formed from uncontrolled cell growth in the colon or rectum (parts of the large intestine). The analysis shows colon and rectal tumours are genetically the same cancer and also referred to as colorectal cancer or colon cancer.
Bowel Cancer often starts from small, noncancerous polyps that form on the inner walls of the colon or large intestine. Some of these polyps may grow into malignant cancers over time if they are not treated.
Only about 5% of polyps develop into cancer but all but the smallest polyps should be removed to ensure they do not turn cancerous. If they do turn into cancer, these cancer cells can travel into the bloodstream or lymph nodes and other parts of the body typically the liver and the lungs.
What are the symptoms of bowel cancer?
- Blood in the stools and/or bleeding from the rectum
- A change in bowel habit lasting longer than 6 weeks (e.g. loose stools, diarrhoea or constipation)
- Stomach pain (often severe)
- Lumps or a mass in the abdomen
- Weight loss
- Weakness and tiredness (symptoms of anaemia)
Some of the symptoms of hemorrhoids and bowel cancer can be similar so recognising each could save your life. If you experience any of the symptoms of piles or bowel cancer it is wise to visit your doctor and get it checked out immediately.
What are the other causes of rectal bleeding?
Constipation can lead to hard poo tearing the skin as it exits the body.
If you have been diagnosed with Crohn’s or Colitis, polyps within your digestive tract can bleed when you have a flare-up.
Bleeding from the stomach or small intestine will be dark black or purple in colour and mixed in with the poo. You should visit your doctor immediately if you experience this.
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