It is estimated that 1 in 20 people in the UK will develop bowel cancer during their lifetime, it is the third most common cancer in the UK and the second most common cause of cancer deaths. Screening for bowel cancer can reduce the risk of dying from bowel cancer by 16%.
What is the Bowel and What does it Do
The bowel is also known as intestine, it is part of the digestive system and is divided into two parts: the small bowel (upper part of the intestine) and the large bowel, which is made up of the colon and rectum. Food is passed from the stomach into the small bowel, where nutrients are taken into the body. The undigested food is then passed through the large bowel, where water is removed, leaving the remaining waste matter, which is kept in the rectum (back passage) until it is excrement from the body as bowel motions (also known as stools or faeces)
What is Bowel Cancer
Bowel cancer can also be referred as colon, rectal or colorectal cancer. The cells that form part of the lining of the bowel are constantly being renewed and sometimes these cells can grow too quickly. This accelerated growth creates a clump of cells known as a bowel polyp or adenoma. These polyps are usually benign and not cancerous, but sometimes they can spread into other parts of the body, turning into a malignant tumour over a number of years.
Who is at Risk of Developing Bowel Cancer
- Both men and women can develop bowel cancer and the risk increases with age, as 8 out of 10 people diagnosed with bowel cancer are over 60.
- People with family history of bowel cancer have an increased risk of developing the illness.
- People who take little exercise, who are overweight and who have a diet high in red meat and low in vegetables, fruits and fibre are thought to have a higher risk of developing bowel cancer.
What are the Symptoms of Bowel Cancer
The most common symptoms of bowel cancer include:
- Persistent change in bowel movement, in particular going to the toilet more often or having diarrhoea for several weeks.
- Bleeding from the rectum (back passage) without any obvious reason.
- Abdominal pain, in particular if it is severe.
- A lump in the abdomen.
Having these symptoms do not necessarily mean that you have bowel cancer, but if you develop one or more of these symptoms for four to six weeks you should seek advice from your GP.
Screening for Bowel Cancer
Screening for bowel cancer helps to detect cancer at an early stage, when treatment can be most successful. It can also detect polyps, which can then be removed to prevent turning into cancer in the future.
What is a Colonoscopy
Colonoscopy is the most effective way to diagnose bowel cancer. It involves looking directly at the lining of the large bowel with a tiny camera attached to a thin and flexible tube, which is passed into the rectum and carefully maneuvered around the bowel. It can detect polyps, which can then be removed with a wire loop passed down the colonoscope tube. Tissue samples are also checked for any abnormal cells that may be cancerous. This procedure is straightforward for most people. But there are possible complications in some cases, which may include: heavy bleeding (about 1 in 150 chance), perforation in the wall of the bowel (1 in 1,500 chance), death in extremely rare cases (1 in 10,000 cases).
What is the Treatment for Bowel Cancer
Bowel cancer is treated mainly with surgery, but in some cases, chemotherapy or radiotherapy may be recommended.
When bowel cancer is detected early, there is over 90% chance of survival.
In case you are concerned about bowel cancer, its symptoms and treatment, speak to your doctor at once. Who can provide you advice and guidance through the screening and treatment process.