Bowel cancer can be successfully treated if it is caught early. In fact nine out of 10 people are likely to survive for another five years or more if the disease is diagnosed at its earliest stage. This drops to fewer than one in 10 when diagnosis takes place at the latest stage.
In a recent survey by Bowel Cancer UK, more than one in three people were not aware of any of the most common bowel cancer symptoms. How well do you know what you should be looking out for?
Bowel Cancer Symptoms
The most common early symptoms of bowel cancer include:
- Bleeding from the anus and/or blood in your stool – this doesn’t necessarily mean you have bowel cancer but you may need to have some tests to establish what is causing it. Bright red blood may be caused by haemorrhoids in your back passage. If the blood is black or dark red it may be coming from your stomach or bowel.
- Changes in bowel habit – you may have the urge to empty your bowels more often than before or your stools may be looser. Sometimes you might have the feeling that your bowels are not emptying completely.
- Pain or lump in your stomach or back passage.
- Weight loss without an obvious cause
- Extreme tiredness – this can be caused by anaemia which is linked to blood loss.
Most people with these symptoms do not have bowel cancer. Similar symptoms can be caused by a range of less serious conditions including irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, haemorrhoids and diverticular disease. But it’s important to rule out bowel cancer if you have any of these symptoms.
Bowel Cancer Screening Saves Lives
One of the first lines of defence against bowel cancer, alongside people’s own vigilance, is screening.
This looks for the earliest signs of the disease before there are any obvious symptoms. In England, people over the age of 60 are automatically invited to participate in national bowel cancer screening programmes. It starts at 50 in Scotland.
Every two years, up until the age of 75, you will be sent a home test called a faecal occult blood test (or a faecal immunochemical test in Scotland). You will be asked to send of a sample of stool in the freepost envelope for testing in the laboratory and you will receive your test results within two weeks. If traces of blood are found you will be invited to a local screening centre to discuss the results. You are likely to be referred for further tests, such as a colonscopy.
A test called bowel scope screening is gradually being introduced in England to patients over the age of 55. This is a more detailed test that involves using a thin flexible tube with a camera at one end to look inside the lower part of your bowel and your rectum. Polyps are growths that can become cancerous over a period of time. This test will remove any polyps that are found in your bowel.
Growing numbers of people are choosing to undergo private bowel cancer screening for added peace of mind. The advantage of this is that you can be screened at any age and at a place and time to suit you.
A colonscopy or sigmoidoscopy will be used to thoroughly examine your bowel and to identify and remove any polyps before they can develop into cancer.
Private Colonoscopy | Windsor – Surrey
Our specialist consultants will ensure you are prepared for your examination and we will discuss in advance what to expect so you are fully informed.
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