Be clear on bowel cancer: essential information on screening and symptoms

By Dr Nagarajan Pranesh, Consultant Colorectal Surgeon at Warrington and Halton Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Pranesh

April is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month; an important time to raise awareness of the fourth most common cancer in the UK, which is also known as colorectal cancer as it starts in the colon or rectum.

According to Bowel Cancer UK, every 15 minutes somebody is diagnosed with bowel cancer in the UK.

As a consultant, I know bowel cancer can affect anybody, regardless of their age or background but it's treatable and curable especially if diagnosed early, and nearly everyone survives if diagnosed at the earliest stage. However, this drops significantly as the disease develops. More than 16,000 people die from bowel cancer in the UK every year – that's 44 people every day.

This is why it’s so vital that everyone know the symptoms of bowel cancer and takes part in screening tests if they are eligible.  

Bowel cancer screening

To help detect cancer at an early stage when it is most treatable, bowel cancer screening is offered every two years to all men and women aged 60 to 74.

It involves a stool test kit called the Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT).  It tests for hidden blood in the stool, which can be an early sign of cancer. Those with a positive FIT test are invited for a camera examination of the bowel called a colonoscopy.

The programme aims to diagnose precancerous lesions (polyps) and cancers at an early stage which can result in prevention and/ or better prognosis.

Patients with a strong family history of bowel cancer are also referred for specialist advice and investigations.

What are the symptoms of bowel cancer?

It’s also really important to know the common symptoms of bowel cancer. They include:

  • Unexplained bleeding from your bottom / blood in your poo
  • A persistent and unexplained change in your bowel habit
  • Unexplained weight loss or abdominal pain or lump in your tummy
  • Extreme tiredness which can be due to iron deficiency anaemia

Most people with these symptoms don’t have bowel cancer. Other health problems can cause similar symptoms. But if you have one or more of these, or if things just don’t feel right, contact your GP.

Your GP will often carry out a FIT test to further guide the urgency with which your symptoms are investigated.

Help us help you

The NHS in Warrington is here to see you safely. If you spot any symptoms you are concerned about contact your GP and please remember to take part in the Bowel Screening Programme

For more more information contact: