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Bowel Cancer

Bowel cancer is England’s second most common cancer, with around 33,000 new cases each year. It is the second biggest cancer killer, but it needn’t be that way.

Bowel cancer affects both men and women. Nine out of ten people diagnosed with the disease are over 50 and those with a family history of bowel cancer are more at risk.

However, the sooner a patient is diagnosed with bowel cancer, the better their chances of successful treatment.

If you've had blood in your poo or looser poo for 3 weeks, your doctor wants to know.

Chances are it's nothing to worry about, but these symptoms could be signs of bowel cancer, so tell your doctor. Finding bowel cancer early makes it more treatable and could save your life.

How do I spot it?

The symptoms of bowel cancer can include blood in your poo or looser poo. You should see your doctor straight away if you've had either of these symptoms for 3 weeks or more. Other bowel cancer symptoms include:

  • A pain or lump in your tummy
  • Feeling more tired than usual for some time
  • Losing weight for no obvious reason

Not all symptoms mean it's bowel cancer. They can be due to other conditions, such as haemorrhoids (piles), which may still need treatment. But don't try to diagnose yourself. Go and see your doctor now to find out for sure. If you know anyone with any of these symptoms, insist they see their doctor.

How important is it to see my doctor?

You're not wasting anyone's time by getting your symptoms checked out and, if it's not serious, your mind will be put at rest. However, if it turns out to be a condition such as bowel cancer, early detection can make all the difference. Over 90% of those diagnosed with early stage bowel cancer are successfully treated. A trip to your doctor's surgery could save your life.

Bowel cancer is England's second most common cancer, with around 33,000 new cases each year. It is the second biggest cancer killer, but it needn't be that way.

Bowel cancer affects both men and women. Nine out of ten people diagnosed with the disease are over 50, and those with a family history of bowel cancer are more at risk.

However, the sooner a patient is diagnosed with bowel cancer, the better their chances of successful treatment.

Bowel cancer screening

Bowel cancer screening kits are sent to people aged 60 – 69 every two years. If you're aged 70 or over, you can request a kit by phoning 0800 707 60 60, although in some parts of the country you'll be sent kits until you're 75.

Using the screening kit can help detect bowel cancer early, before you have any symptoms. And as we've said, the earlier the diagnosis, the better your chances of survival.

If you have any symptoms don't wait for your screening kit. Go and see your doctor as soon as possible.

Find out more about bowel cancer screening on NHS Choices

Reduce your chances of getting bowel cancer

You can reduce the likelihood of getting bowel cancer by adopting a healthy lifestyle:

Eat healthily: Try to get your 5-A-DAY (more vegetables and fruit) as well as more fish and wholegrain foods. Eat less fatty foods like cakes and pastries and fewer processed meats like bacon and ham.

Cut down on alcohol: Drinking too much alcohol can lead to a number of health problems and is linked with bowel cancer. By drinking less, you'll reduce your health risks.

Look after yourself: Keep active. Swim, cycle, go dancing - the more you can do, the better. Even walking to your local shops instead of taking the car can make a difference.

Stop smoking: It's never too late to quit. Giving up will lower your risk of getting bowel cancer. Find NHS help and support at smokefree.nhs.uk or call 0800 169 0169.

Read more about bowel cancer prevention on NHS Choices

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