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HMT is providing helpful information on the symptoms, causes, tests and treatments for bowel cancer. Our goal is to boost understanding of the condition for Bowel Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM), which takes place every April.

So please thoroughly read the article and share it with your loved ones to avoid developing this life-threatening condition.

What is Bowel Cancer?

Bowel cancer is a general term for cancer discovered in the large intestine. Depending on the locality of the cancer in the bowel, it may be referred to as rectal or colon cancer. Whilst cancer can develop in the small intestine, this is usually very rare. Unfortunately, bowel cancer is one of the most common cancer types in the UK, with approximately 40,000 new cases diagnosed each year.

The Symptoms of Bowel Cancer

Most people who are diagnosed with bowel cancer often suffer from one or more of the following three symptoms:

• Change in bowel habits – an increased need to use the toilet to pass looser stools, which may or may not include blood.

• Blood in stools without haemorrhoid symptoms – a person may suffer from soreness, pain, itching and have a lump hanging down from their back passage.

• Abdominal pain – you may suffer pain in our stomach or feel bloated or uncomfortable after eating, which could result in a reduction of food consumption and weight loss.

If you are suffering from one or more of the above symptoms, do not panic. The symptoms could be a sign of another condition. It is, however, essential you make an appointment with your GP to identify the cause of your health problems.

What Causes Bowel Cancer?

The cause of bowel cancer is unknown, but certain factors may increase a person’s chance of developing the condition.

You are more likely to be diagnosed with bowl cancer if:

• You are 60 years old and above

• You eat a diet that’s high in red and processed meats

• A close relative, such as a parent or sibling, were diagnosed with bowel cancer under the age of 50

• You are overweight or obese

• You are a habitual smoker or drinker

• You live an inactive lifestyle

• You suffer from another bowel condition such as Crohn’s disease

What are the Bowel Cancer Tests?

A GP will most likely carry out an examination of your stomach and bottom to identify if you have any lumps. A blood test may be necessary to determine if you are suffering from iron deficiency anaemia, which can identify if there is bleeding in your bowel. A GP may refer you to hospital for the blood test to ensure there is no life threatening cause for your symptoms. Should the symptoms persist or return, book another appointment with your doctor.

What Bowel Cancer Treatments are Available?

The bowel cancer treatments will be determined by the location of the cancer in the bowel.

The bowel cancer treatments are:

• Surgery – to remove a cancerous section in the bowel. It is known as one of the most effective methods of curing the cancer, and is often all a person will need.

• Chemotherapy – medication will kill the cancerous cells in the bowel

• Radiotherapy – the use of radiation to kill cancer cells

• Biological treatment – a new form of bowel cancer medication that can increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy, whilst preventing the cancer from spreading to other areas.

The survival rate will be determined by how advanced the bowel cancer is in a person’s body. If the cancer is located only in the bowel, surgery will most likely be performed to remove it. There is a greater chance of surviving the condition if it is caught and treated in the early stages.

Bowel Cancer Screenings

Health screenings are essential to preventing life-threatening conditions developing further. Adults registered with a GP are able to undertake a bowel cancer screening at their local practice, and this can help spot the cancer before the symptoms develop; therefore, screenings can increase a person’s likelihood of survival. The screening details are mentioned below.

The Two Screening Types

• Bowel cancer screenings are available to all men and women who are aged between 60 and 70 years old. A person can receive a faecal occult blood test in the comfort of their home, and they will be sent a home test kit every two years via the post until they reach 74 years old. The test determines if there is blood present in a stool sample.

• A one-off test known as a bowel scope is available in the UK, which will gradually be introduced across England for men and women who are 55 years old and above. A GP or nurse will use a thin, flexible instrument to examine the lower bowel and will remove any small growths, which are known as polyps, to prevent them from turning into cancer.

If you are suffering from any of the symptoms above, talk to your GP about a bowel cancer screening. Boost awareness of bowel cancer and share this article with your loved ones – you might just save their life.