Bowel cancer or colorectal cancer affects the large bowel. It is the fourth most common cancer in the UK and one of the leading causes of cancer death with more than 16,000 people dying from it each year.
The risk of bowel cancer is higher in people aged 50 and over. However, bowel cancer can affect anyone of any age and it is important to know the signs and symptoms to watch out for.
Early diagnosis is crucial as this leads to improved treatment outcomes. If you experience any of the symptoms below, do not delay, contact your GP as soon as possible- the NHS is open safely.
So ‘DO NOT DELAY, CANCER CAN’T WAIT!’
Symptoms of Bowel Cancer
- Bleeding from your bottom and or blood in your poo
- Persistent and unexplained change in bowel habit
- Unexplained weight loss
- Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
- A pain or lump in your tummy
The following risk factors increase your risks of getting bowel cancer:
- Aged 50 and over
- Family history of bowel cancer
- A history of non-cancerous growth (polyps) in your bowel
- Inflammatory bowel disease or ulcerative colitis
- Type 2 diabetes
- Unhealthy Lifestyle
Reducing Your Risk of Bowel Cancer
You can reduce your risk by having a healthy lifestyle including the following:
- Regular Exercise
- Maintaining a healthy body weight
- Healthy Eating
- Avoid smoking and drinking excessively
Bowel Cancer Screening Programme
The NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme (NHS BCSP) is part of the NHS cancer screening programmes in the UK.
The BCSP aims to reduce the number of deaths resulting from bowel cancer through regular bowel cancer screening. Screening can help spot early signs of bowel cancer when it is easier to treat
Every 2 years, everyone aged 60-74 who is registered with a GP and lives in England will receive an invitation for bowel cancer screening and a FIT test kit. The age for testing is due to be extended to people aged 56 in May 2021.
Previously people aged 55 were invited for bowel scope screening. However, this is no longer offered as part of the bowel cancer screening programme. If you were invited for bowel scope prior to the covid-19 pandemic and are still waiting to be seen, you will receive a FIT test kit by April 2021
People aged 75 and over can also request a testing kit by contacting the bowel cancer screening helpline on 0800 707 60 60.
The FIT test detects tiny traces of blood in the poo sample and the kit is really easy to use as it only requires one stool sample. The participant unscrews the cap of the test, dips the end of the stick into the stool sample and then replaces the stick. You then post it to the lab for testing. But don’t worry, full instructions and a detailed information leaflet will be sent with your invitation and test kit.
There are things that you can do to make sure that you do not miss your screening invitation and bowel screening FIT kit:
- Ensure that your GP has the correct address for you
- Contact your GP regarding any questions or concerns around screening and results
Information on bowel cancer screening is also available in different languages and formats via the GOV.UK website.