April is bowel cancer awareness month, so let’s talk about who is most at risk and how to spot it. Better yet, let’s see how to avoid it altogether!
In England, bowel cancer is the third most common type of cancer. In 2010, there were over 40,000 new cases of bowel cancer registered in the UK. Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in the UK and over 15,700 people die each year.
Older people are most at risk and younger people can be affected too. Currently, everyone between the ages of 60 and 69 registered with a GP is offered bowel cancer screening every two years. People in this age group are automatically sent an invitation and then a screening kit, so they can do the test at home. To make this happen, your GP needs your up-to-date name and address, so if you’ve moved make sure you tell your GP.
Know the common symptoms
Do you have blood in your poo, or bleeding from your rectum? Have you noticed a change to your normal bowel habits for more than three weeks – such as diarrhoea, constipation or passing stools more frequently than usual. If the answer is yes, then it’s time to talk to your GP. Don’t be embarrassed, they’ve seen it all. GPs see a wide range of different health problems, some are quite rare and some more common. The sooner you talk to them, the better your chances for recovery.
Dr Jon Doyle, Bromley GP said:
“Screening plays an important part in the fight against bowel cancer because the earlier the cancer is diagnosed, the greater the chance it can be cured completely.”
“There are basic things you can do to help reduce your risk of bowel cancer. For a start, take a look at your diet. You need to make sure you get enough fibre and not too much saturated fat. Adding more fibre can be pretty easy, try a bran breakfast cereal in the morning or whole wheat bread. Some fruit and vegetables are also high in fibre like beans, peas, and raspberries.
“Keep your diet low in saturated fat, that’s foods like sausages, cakes and pastries. This will reduce cholesterol as well so your heart will thank you too. It’s one simple step that’s twice as good for you!”
According to the British Dietetic Association the average man should eat no more than 30g, and average woman no more than 20g, of saturated fat a day. Check the dietary information on your food at the supermarket if you’re unsure. Keeping active and drinking and smoking less also helps reduce your risk.
For more information on screening and symptoms go to NHS Choices at www.nhs.uk
There’s also a bowel cancer screening helpline: 0800 707 6060.