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Bowel Cancer Awareness Month – April 2018

Bowel cancer UK is the UKs leading bowel cancer charity.  They support and enable research, campaign for early diagnosis and access to best treatment, provide expert information and education and fundraise.

Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK.  Someone is diagnosed with bowel cancer every 15 minutes.  More than nine out of ten new cases (94%) are diagnosed in people over the age of 50. But bowel cancer can affect any age. More than 2,500 new cases are diagnosed each year in people under the age of 50. 1 in 14 men (7%) and 1 in 19 women (5%) will be diagnosed with bowel cancer during their lifetime.

Bowel cancer is treatable and curable, especially if it’s diagnosed early.

What should I look out for?

If you notice any of the symptoms listed below and they last for longer than 3 weeks, it is important that you make an appointment with your GP;

  • Bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your stools (faeces)
  • A change in bowel habit lasting 3 weeks or more – needing to go more frequently, looser stools, feeling that you have not fully emptied your bowels
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason – bowel cancer can lead to a lack of iron in the body causing anaemia
  • A pain or lump in your tummy

Reducing your risk

Bowel Cancer UK states that there is an increase in evidence that diets high in red meat and or processed meat and low in fibre increases the risk of developing bowel cancer. Try to maximise the amount of fibre you eat (cereals, bread and pasta made from wholegrains) and 5 or more portions of fruit and vegetables daily. Research has also shown that people who are overweight or obese have an increased risk of bowel cancer, so it is important to:

  • Reduce your alcohol consumption
  • Stop smoking
  • Aim to do at least half an hour of moderate physical activity 5 times a week Keep within a healthy height: weight range (see chart below)

 

Screening

The NHS offer two bowel cancer screening programmes.

NHS bowel scope screening is a relatively new test to help prevent bowel cancer. It finds and removes any small bowel growths, called polyps that could eventually turn into cancer. The NHS bowel scope screening programme is gradually being rolled out to all men and women in England aged 55. The NHS Bowel cancer screening programme is for those aged between 60 and 74 in the UK.  The testing kit looks for the presence of blood in a stool sample using special testing strips and is returned in a hygienically sealed Freepost envelope to a laboratory for testing.

Sources of information; NHS ChoicesCancer Research UKBowel Cancer UK  

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