Let’s beat bowel cancer together

April is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month. How can you get involved?

April is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month. How can you get involved?

Bowel Cancer UK has some great fundraising ideas, ranging from X-box gaming marathons to Strictly nights!

You can also host a bowel cancer awareness talk in your workplace or community group - an great way to raise awareness of the UK’s second biggest cancer killer and encourage good bowel health. Talks run for approximately 30 minutes and are free of charge.

What is bowel cancer?

Bowel cancer is a disease that may start in the colon (large bowel) or back passage (rectum). It is also known as colorectal cancer. Cancers can also occur in the small bowel.

It’s the third most common cancer in men and women in the UK. Almost 42,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year in the UK: one in fifteen men and one in eighteen women will be diagnosed with bowel cancer during their lifetime.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms can include:

  • Bleeding from the back passage (rectum) and/or blood in your poo
  • A lump your doctor can feel in your back passage or abdomen
  • A change in your normal bowel habit
  • A feeling of needing to strain in your back passage (as if you need to poo), even after opening your bowels
  • Losing weight
  • Pain in your abdomen or back passage
  • Tiredness and breathlessness.

See your doctor if you notice a change that isn’t normal for you or if you have any of the possible signs and symptoms of cancer.

How is bowel cancer detected?

Detecting bowel cancer before symptoms appear means it is easier to treat and there is a better chance of survival.

A new improved home test kit for screening is now available called a FIT test, which is used to detect and quantify the amount of human blood in a single stool sample. An abnormal result requires further investigation.

The FIT test is easy!

  • It only needs a single sample
  • It’s more sensitive so detects abnormalities more easily
  • No need for repeat tests.

Bowel cancer screening is about to be offered for those in England aged 50 years plus soon in line with Scotland and Wales 50 to 74 years.

Risk factors include:

  • Age: more than 94% of new cases are diagnosed in people over the age of 50 and nearly 60% are diagnosed in people aged 70 or over. However, bowel cancer can affect anyone of any age. More than 2,500 new cases are diagnosed each year in people under the age of 50
  • Genetics and family history: those with a parent, brother/sister, son/daughter diagnosed with bowel cancer are more than doubly at risk
  • Diet and lifestyle: 13% of bowel cancer cases in the UK are caused by eating processed meat and the risk is increased by eating red meat. 11% of bowel cancer cases in the UK are caused by being overweight and obese, 6% by drinking alcohol and 7% by smoking. 5% of cases are caused by too little physical activity and 28% by eating too little fibre
  • Medical conditions: Bowel cancer risk is higher in people with type-2 diabetes and those with inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative or Crohn’s colitis), familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or Lynch syndrome.

Read the latest Public Health Matters blog on seven ways to reduce your risk.

Read Stuart’s story

He's a bowel cancer survivor