Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK. More than 44 people die from bowel cancer every day in the UK, it’s the nation’s second biggest cancer killer. However it shouldn’t be. It’s treatable and curable, especially if diagnosed early.
Bowel cancer incidence is strongly related to age. Approximately 95 per cent of cases are diagnosed in people over the age of 50. However there is a growing proportion of younger people being diagnosed with the disease.
Most bowel cancers develop from polyps which are usually non-cancerous and, once detected, can be removed easily if caught early enough. Nearly all bowel cancers develop in the large bowel – two-thirds of these are in the colon and one-third in the rectum.
Bowel cancer can be treated using a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and, in some cases, biological therapy. If diagnosed at the earliest stage, bowel cancer can be treated successfully, with more than nine out of ten people surviving for more than five years. However, only one in ten people are diagnosed at this stage.
Catch it early
Bowel cancer is very treatable but the earlier it is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat. People whose cancer is diagnosed at an early stage have a much higher chance of successful treatment than those whose cancer has become more widespread.
Knowing the symptoms of bowel cancer could save your life:
Bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your poo
A change in bowel habit lasting three weeks or more
Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
Unexplained weight loss
A pain or lump in your tummy
If you have any concerns or if things just don’t feel right, go and see your doctor.
Reduce your risk
Scientists think around half (54 per cent) of all bowel cancers could be prevented by having a healthier lifestyle. You can reduce your risk by:
Eating a healthier diet: Avoid processed meat and limit red meat, eat plenty of fibre from wholegrains, pulses, veg and fruit, be a healthy body weight and drink plenty of water.
Taking more exercise: Try to do at least 30 minutes of physical activity such as brisk walking, five times a week. As fitness improves, aim for 60 minutes.
Cutting down on alcohol: To keep health risks from alcohol as low as possible, both men and women should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week. If you do drink, try to spread it out over the week. Also cutting down could make a real difference.
Stopping smoking: An estimated 8% of bowel cancer cases in the UK are linked to tobacco smoking. Bowel cancer risk increases with the number of cigarettes smoked per day.
Bowel Cancer UK is the UK’s leading bowel cancer research charity, determined to save lives and improve the quality of life for all those affected by bowel cancer. Find out more: bowelcanceruk.org.uk