Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK with 38,500 new cases every year. Around half of these people will die, making it the second most common cause of cancer death after lung cancer, but despite this, many of us have no idea what the symptoms are.
Early diagnosis is vital because, if spotted early, bowel cancer is one of the most treatable forms of cancers (with over 90% of people surviving for 5 years or more if the cancer is diagnosed in the early stages).
So, to educate people about the risk factors, symptoms, prevention and treatment of the disease, a new campaign has been launched by The London Clinic, to coincide with a national bowel cancer awareness campaign Be Loud Be Clear (running from 24th to 31st January).
As ever, prevention is better than cure, so The London Clinic is highlighting the importance of screening for the disease. If pre-cancerous polyps are identified and removed at colonoscopy then the likelihood of developing colorectal cancer is reduced by 80% or more.
There are currently a number of ways to screen for bowel cancer:
Faecal Occult Blood test (FOBt) which can be carried out at home and checks for blood in stools
Flexible sigmoidoscopy (flexi-sig) which involves passing an endoscope (thin, flexible tube with a miniature video camera on the end) into the first part of the colon and must be done at a hospital
CT (virtual) colonography, again carried out in hospital Colonoscopy, which involves inserting a long, flexible endoscope all the way around the colon to directly visualise all areas where polyps and cancer can occur.
Risk factors of developing the disease include a family history of bowel cancer, obesity and increasing age (with 8 out of 10 cases of bowel cancer occurring in people aged 60 and over) It is important to be aware of the key symptoms, although unfortunately, some of the these can be overlooked or mistaken:
A change in bowel habit (eg increased frequency or increased looseness of stool)
Blood seen on or mixed in with a stool
Extreme fatigue or shortness of breath, indicating anaemia
Persistent lump in the abdomen
The London Clinic’s Dr Julian Teare, consultant gastroenterologist, and Mr Alistair Windsor, consultant colorectal surgeon, explain the importance of bowel cancer screening and symptoms to look out for.
For more information visit www.thelondonclinic.co.uk