Depending on where the cancer starts, bowel cancer is sometimes referred to as colon or rectal cancer. Bowel cancer specifically is the terms used to describe cancer that starts in the large bowel.
Bowel cancer is one of the most common types of cancer diagnosed in the UK. Most people diagnosed with it are over the age of 60.
The older you are, the higher risk you are. Bowel cancer screening is carried out routinely in Bridgend (and in Wales) to all our patients who are between the ages of 60 and 75 years old.
Causes of Bowel Cancer
With any cancer it is not always know why it happens but the following things can mean you are higher risk:
1. Age – most people affected by bowel cancer are over 60 years of age
2. Weight – As is the case with many health conditions, if you are over weight or obese you are at a higher risk. If you need help getting fit and losing weight find out more here, or speak to your GP if you need support.
3. Lifestyle – the unhealthier you are, the greater the risk you are at of getting bowel cancer. A lack of exercise, excessive drinking or smoking can all contribute.
4. Diet – if you eat a lot of processed foods or red meat for example, you could be at higher risk
5. Family history – keep a closer eye on your health is you have a close family member who had bowel cancer up to the age of 50. This could mean you are at higher risk. You can discuss screening at an earlier age with your GP, if you are concerned.
6. Related Conditions –those who have another condition such as extensive ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease in the colon for more than 10 years can also be at risk of getting bowel cancer.
The main three symptoms of bowel cancer are as follows:
- Lower abdominal cramps, bloating and discomfort, which can be caused by eating. It can also surround a loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss.
- Regular blood in stools. This may occur for no reason whatsoever and be unexplained.
- A change in bowel habit can also be an indicator. It is mostly when you may visit the toilet more frequently and when stools may be noticeably looser.
Please do not be immediately alarmed if you experience some or even all of the above symptoms, as they can often be easily explained by other, less concerning conditions. For example, blood in stools could be explained by piles, and stomach cramps could be explained by a food intolerance.
What Can Your GP Do?
Your GP will carry out simple tummy and bottom examinations, and arrange further testing if they are concerned. Please do not be concerned or embarrassed, they are trained professionals who want to help.
Word from our GP
“It’s important to seek medical advice if you experience concerning symptoms for 4 weeks or longer. Book a routine appointment with one of our team via your surgery reception.” Dr Kletta.
Things to remember
1. If you have blood in your stools please do not be alarmed, check there is not an obvious cause such as piles. If symptoms are unexplained for a prolonged period of time and longer than 4 weeks, please seek medical advice.
2. Living a healthy lifestyle will reduce your risk of getting bowel cancer and many other health conditions.
3. Please don’t be embarrassed to visit a healthcare professional advice. It could save your life.
Read more about bowel cancer screening here.