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Bowel cancer – the killer symptoms

Around 1 in 20 people develop bowel cancer. Almost 18 out of 20 cases of bowel cancer in the UK are diagnosed in people over the age of 60 which is why NHS Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is asking people to look out for the early warning signs.

April supports Bowel Cancer Awareness Month and aims to raise awareness of the symptoms of bowel cancer. The symptoms can be subtle and don’t necessarily make someone feel ill. It’s not known exactly what the cause is, but there are a number of things that can increase a person’s risk such as being aged 60 or over, a diet high in red meats and low in fibre, being overweight and a smoker.

Symptoms of bowel cancer are common in 90% of people having one of the following combinations of symptoms:

  • A persistent change in bowel habit – going more often
  • Blood in stools
  • Abdominal pain, discomfort or bloating always brought on by eating

Kirsty Millard from Solihull CCG said:

“Bowel cancer is one of the most common types of cancer diagnosed in the UK. Getting an early diagnosis is so important and this can be done in your GP surgery by a simple examination, known as a digital rectal examination. This is a useful way of checking whether there are any lumps or abnormal activity going on.

“With more awareness of the signs and symptoms we hope that more people will be diagnosed earlier. There are diet and lifestyle factors that can affect any cancers, such as smoking and diet, and these are the factors that we recommend changing. 

“I would like to emphasise the importance of bowel screening and who is eligible – more than 9 in 10 cancer patients will survive the disease for more than 5 years if it is diagnosed at the earliest stages.  Bowel screening can detect changes in the bowel such as polpys and other changes that might develop into cancer in the future.  It can detect bowel cancer at a much earlier stage before people experience obvious symptoms. It can be cured with a straightforward operation if it is detected before it has started to spread.

“We are running a bowel screening roadshow date at the You+ Shop on 27th April between 1030-1230, where experts will be on hand to answer any queries relating to bowel cancer screening and offering general health promotion advice.”

Bowel screening is for eligible people aged between 60-74 every and invited every 2 years.  Call 0800 707 60 60 to order a kit.

Mark Dutton, a patient survivor knows the importance of spotting early symptoms only too well.  Mark was diagnosed with bowel cancer in April 2006 and underwent an operation in the October and was back in full time work the following January.  However he has learnt the importance of getting yourself checked out and not to self-diagnose. 

Mark’s lessons are:

“When you spot symptoms that are unusual see the experts do not self-diagnose.  Act quickly, it took me three years to seek help.  Finally adopt a healthy lifestyle, I have been overweight for some 50+ years until the doctors recommended me losing weight before my operation as I would have been a high risk.  You can beat the odds.” 

For more information on bowel cancer, please visit http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Cancer-of-the-colon-rectum-or-bowel/Pages/Introduction.aspx