Did you know bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK? Unfortunately it's often not talked about enough. Depending on where the cancer starts, bowel cancer is sometimes called colon or rectal cancer.
Bowel cancer usually affects people aged 60 and over, but it can happen to anyone at any age. Therefore it's worth knowing the symptoms and not being shy talking about bowel problems with your doctor.
Have you been diagnosed with bowel
or any other kind of cancer?
Common symptoms of bowel cancer are...
+ Blood in your poo
+ Change in your bowel habit, which is usually having to poo more and/or runny poo
+ Persistent lower tummy pain, bloating or discomfort
+ Loss of appetite and/or significant unintentional weight loss
It's worth remembering that most people with these symptoms do not have bowel cancer as they are likely to be caused by other issues, but it is important to talk with your doctor especially when they are persistent and/or you are 60 or over.
Everyone aged 60 to 74 who is registered with a GP and lives in England is automatically sent a bowel cancer screening home test kit every 2 years. NHS advises that once you're 75 or over you can ask for a kit every 2 years by phoning the free bowel cancer screening helpline on 0800 707 60 60.
We don't know the exact causes of bowel cancer, but there are things that can increase your risk such as...
+ Your age. Statistically almost 9 in 10 people with bowel cancer are aged 60 or over
+ Eating a lot of red or processed meats as well as not having enough fibre
+ Not maintaining your optimal weight
+ Not having enough exercise
+ Drinking alcohol and smoking
+ Having a close relative (parent or sibling) who developed bowel cancer under the age of 50; if this is your situation you should discuss this with a GP
+ Other conditions, such as extensive ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease
After a bowel cancer diagnosis please remember that there are treaments available and you are not alone.
The main treatments are usually surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Targeted therapies – a newer group of medicines that increases the effectiveness of chemotherapy and prevents the cancer spreading - can also be used.
A team of specialists will work with you to decide on the best treatment plan for you. They will look after you throughout your diagnosis, treatment and recovery.
There are also many charities and support groups dedicated to helping you navigate through your cancer journey. We as Sam's Diamonds provide social media as well as in person support, information, meet-ups and much more! Click here to become a Diamond.