As #bowelcancerawareness month draws to close I just wanted to highlight the signs and symptoms to be aware of.
What is bowel cancer?
Well, simply, it is cancer of the bowel. It is also referred to as colorectal cancer. It affects the large bowel, which is made up of the colon and rectum.
According to Bowel Cancer UK, bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK, after breast, prostate and lung cancers. It is traditionally thought of as an ‘older persons’ cancer but more and more younger people are getting diagnosed. More than 2,500 new cases are diagnosed each year in people under the age of 50.
For most people, including myself, talking about the function of your bowel or anything to do with poo or your bottom can be quite embarrassing. I can totally see why people would want to put off chatting to their GP about this. But, rest assured, our medical professionals have heard and seen it all – as my GP often tells me when I apologise profusely for showing her bits of my body I perceive to be embarrassing – and you won’t be the first person coming to see them with concerns about their bowels.
As with most cancer, if you catch bowel cancer early you have a much better prognosis. This means we need to get comfortable with talking about our bodily functions and noticing when something is different. PLEASE don’t put it off if you are worried or think something is wrong. According to Bowel Cancer UK, a lot of young people get fobbed off which leads to a longer time before diagnosis. Be your own advocate and persist because nearly everyone diagnosed in the early stages of bowel cancer will survive.
What are the signs and symptoms?
The symptoms of bowel cancer can include:
- Bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your poo
- A persistent and unexplained change in bowel habit
- Unexplained weight loss
- Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
- A pain or lump in your tummy
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, it’s a good idea to go to see your GP.
Bowel Cancer UK is keen to highlight the fact that more people under 50 in the UK be being diagnosed with bowel cancer. They have set up a new campaign, ‘Never Too Young’, explaining why young people might not get diagnosed early. One key issue that they bring up it ‘A lack of awareness – the majority of younger patients were not aware of the symptoms of bowel cancer, and were not aware of bowel cancer as a disease younger people could get. This has led to delays in going to the GP to seek help.’ Hopefully this article has helped diminish the lack of awareness a bit.
For more information about the Never To Young Campaign use the link here:
Finally, Cancer Research UK has done a handy little infographic so you can see how you can reduce your risk of bowel cancer – or any cancer really. More information can be found on their website: http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/bowel-cancer