Health Corner

April marks Bowel Cancer Awareness Month in the UK. This is an opportunity to highlight the symptoms we need to watch out for and ways in which we can help reduce our risk. 

Even though it is more common in people over 60 years of age, 1 in 10 people with bowel cancer will be younger, some as early as their 20s, therefore it is important for everyone to look out for the symptoms below:  

Symptoms

1) Persistent blood in your poo, or bleeding from your bottom, which happens for no obvious reason.

2) Persistent change in your bowel habit (usually needing to poo more frequently or looser stools).

3) Persistent lower abdominal pain, bloating or discomfort usually caused by eating; also loss of appetite.

4) Unintentional weight loss.

5) Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason.

There are many other causes for the symptoms above, and most people will not have bowel cancer, but the persistence of the symptoms should prompt you for a medical review. 

Risk factors

We don’t know what causes most bowel cancers but there are factors that increase your risk – some we can’t do anything about, others can be lifestyle changes that you make to lower your risk: 

• Age over 50 years

• A strong family history of bowel cancer

• A history of polyps in the family ( non- cancerous growths)

• Longstanding inflammatory bowel disease ( e.g. Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative Colitis)

• Type 2 diabetes

• Unhealthy lifestyle.

Up to half of all cases of bowel cancer are thought to be preventable.

Screening

To try to detect cases sooner (even before symptoms arise):

1) All men and women aged 60-74 are invited to carry out a FIT or FOB test every two years. It involves a home testing kit used to provide a stool sample (this will change to 50 years and over later this year). 

2) Bowel scope screening: this currently is not being offered, you will be sent a home kit instead. 

The home testing kits should be automatically sent to your home address every two years. If you are over 75 years, you can still ask for a kit by contacting the phone number below. To find out more about the risks and benefits to screening see the websites below. 

Resources:

Screening helpline: 0800 707 60 60

www.gov.uk/government/publications/bowel-cancer-screening-benefits-and-risks

www.bowelcanceruk.org.uk (for information and support services)

www.cancerresearchuk.org


Dr. Yuheng Zhou

Teddington Resident &

Paediatric Consultant

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