April is Bowel Cancer awareness month.
Why do I need to know about Bowel Cancer?
Bowel cancer is an umbrella term for cancer of the colon (large bowel) and rectum (back passage). According to statistics provided by Cancer Research UK it is the 4the most common cancer in the UK, with 41,804 cases diagnosed per year. Bowel Cancer UK call it the “second biggest Cancer killer” as 43% of these diagnosed patients die. These statistics are unsettling because bowel cancer is treatable – nearly every patient diagnosed early in the disease will survive – unfortunately chances of survival and effective treatment drops rapidly the further along the cancer is. Even more alarming is the fact that over half of all bowel cancer cases in England, Scotland and Norther Ireland are diagnosed late! It affects men and woman almost equally, however the highest rates occur in people over the age of 60. It is therefore crucial to know the early warning signs – especially as they can be quite subtle and appear to be symptoms of something more harmless – and have yourself checked out as soon as possible to ensure the most positive outcome possible.
What are the risk factors?
- Being over the age of 60
- Being overweight or obese
- A sedentary lifestyle
- High alcohol intake
- Having a family history of bowel cancer
What should I be looking out for?
- Any blood in your stool or from your bottom
- A persistent and unexplained change in your bowel habit (i.e. going more often or having looser stools than usual)
- Pain in your lower stomach, bloating, discomfort or a sensation that there is a lump
- Losing weight without actively trying to do so
- Feeling extremely tired or exhausted for no obvious reason
These symptoms are often caused by other things such as haemorrhoids or eating something that didn’t quite agree with you however, you should take them very seriously until you have seen your GP about it especially if these symptoms persist for a month or longer.
For more information about bowel cancer you can go to the following pages:
Sources used: NHS Choices, Cancer Research UK, Bowel Cancer UK