A short information guide to enable you to be Bowel Cancer Aware
Ashocking £12 billion pounds a year is spent on bowel cancer in the NHS. Most of this money could be saved if patients were diagnosed at an earlier stage. Only around 15 in every 100 patients (15%) are diagnosed with stage 1 bowel cancer, which is curable with surgery and has a 95% chance of survival for 5 years. Unfortunately, those diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer only have a 7% chance of surviving for 5 years. So, as April is bowel cancer awareness month, and my PhD is in bowel cancer, I thought I’d share a short guide to bowel cancer and how to be aware of it and catch it early!
WHAT: Large bowel cancer is a malignant growth that develops in the lining of the large bowel.
WHERE: Your bowel is a surprising nine metres long! That’s the length of a double decker bus!! The large bowel is the last metre and a half, it is comprised of the colon and the rectum.
HOW: Initially a small growth called a polyp forms in the lining of the bowel. This grows larger and then starts to penetrate the lining of the bowel. At this stage it is at its most dangerous, as cancer cells can enter the bloodstream and settle in other organs causing secondary cancer(s). A common site of secondary cancer in large bowel cancer patients is the liver.
WHY: There are multiple risk factors for large bowel cancer, including genetics, diet, obesity, type 2 diabetes, smoking, excessive alcohol intake and age.
WHO: Large bowel cancer is the 3rd most common cancer in the UK. 1 in 20 people in the UK will develop it, of which 90% of them will be over 60. However, doctors are seeing patients presenting at an earlier age more frequently, likely as poor diet and high stress lifestyles become more common.
SYMPTOMS: There are some common bowel cancer symptoms to look out for. Whilst routine screening is carried out for people between 60 and 74 years old, I encourage you to go to your doctor if you notice any symptoms at all. You can use this handy acronym to remember the symptoms!
B is for blood in the stools
C is for a persistent change in bowel habit
A is for abdominal pain
If you’d like more information, or further support, please visit Bowel Cancer UK.