Bowel Cancer Awareness
What is bowel cancer?
Bowel cancer is also referred to as colorectal or colon cancer. Nearly all bowel cancers develop in the large bowel - two-thirds of these are in the colon and one-third in the rectum. Most bowel cancers develop from polyps which are usually non-cancerous and, once detected, can be removed easily if caught early enough. The bowel is divided into the small bowel (small intestine) and the large bowel (colon and rectum). Cancer of the small bowel is rare with only just over 700 people diagnosed in the UK each year.
Symptoms of bowel cancer
The symptoms of bowel (colorectal) cancer can be:
Bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your faeces
A change in bowel habit lasting for three weeks or more e.g. diarrhoea, constipation or going a lot more or less than usual
Unexplained weight loss
Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
A pain or lump in your tummy
You might experience one, some, all of the above or no symptoms at all. Remember most symptoms will not be bowel cancer. If you are worried about any symptoms that you think might be caused by bowel cancer, make an appointment with your doctor. Bowel cancer is very treatable, but like most cancers, the earlier it is diagnosed the more effective treatment is likely to be.
As bowel cancer progresses, it can sometimes cause bleeding inside the bowel. Eventually, this can lead to your body not having enough red blood cells. This is known as anaemia.
Symptoms of anaemia include:
In some cases, bowel cancer can cause an obstruction in the bowel. Symptoms of a bowel obstruction include:
a feeling of bloating, usually around the belly button
Bowel Cancer Screening
Regular bowel cancer screening has been shown to reduce deaths from bowel cancer by 16%. Some people with bowel cancer have the disease, or are at risk of it developing, before any symptoms appear. The screening programme is designed to find those people and treat them more effectively.
The NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme offers screening every two years to all men and women aged 60 to 69.
People over 70 can request a screening kit by calling the Freephone helpline: 0800 707 6060.
References: Bowel Cancer UK, Beating Bowel Cancer and NHS Choices
Further information can be found at the following links: