Did you know bowel cancer is the UK's second biggest cancer killer? In women it is the third most common cancer and in the UK there are around 40,000 new cases diagnosed every year. However, if it is diagnosed early it can be treatable.
Bowel cancer may also be known as colon cancer, colorectal cancer or rectal cancer.
The symptoms to look out for are:
These symptoms are very common. Experiencing these symptoms does not necessarily mean you have bowel cancer, however, if you do notice any of these symptoms you should go and see your doctor.
There are some factors that increase your risk of developing bowel cancer, these are:• If you have type 2 diabetes• If you have a diet high in red meat and low in fibre• If you are aged over 60• If you are overweight or obese• If you have a high intake of alcohol and smoking• If you have another condition which affects your bowel such as ulcerative colitis or crohn's disease.
You can reduce your risk of bowel cancer by not smoking, cutting down on red and processed meat, exercising regularly, eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables daily and taking part in bowel screening when invited.
In England the NHS offers bowel cancer screening to adults who are registered with a GP. Men and women aged 60-74 are sent a home test kit every two years through the post. This checks for the presence of blood in the stools and hence it can detect bowel cancer at an early stage in people with no symptoms, when treatment is likely to be most effective.
Bowel problems are very common and most will not turn out to be cancer. However, if suspected your GP may send you to a hospital specialist for further diagnosis. Different tests can be used at the hospital to confirm diagnosis. The main ones are colonoscopy and flexible sigmoidoscopy.
Colonoscopy is an examination of the entire large bowel using a colonoscope. Flexible sigmoidoscopy is an examination of the large bowel using a sigmoidoscope.
If a diagnosis of bowel cancer is made, further tests are usually carried out to check whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
Treating bowel cancer depends on what stage the cancer is at. At the early stage it may be treated by removing the affected piece lining the colon wall. If it spreads in to the surrounding colon it may be necessary to remove a section of the colon. Good news is that over half of those diagnosed will live for at least another 10 years.