7 things everyone should know about bowel cancer

This April, we are proudly supporting Bowel Cancer Awareness month by sharing a series of blogs on bowel cancer – helping you to protect your bowel health. In this first blog, we’re answering your most frequently asked questions to bring you the facts on bowel cancer.

Here are 7 important things you should know about bowel cancer:

1. Bowel cancer is a type of cancer which affects the colon or rectum

Sometimes known as colon cancer, rectal cancer or colorectal cancer – bowel cancer describes a cancer which forms within the colon (large bowel) or rectum.

2. Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK

1 in 15 men and 1 in 18 women will develop bowel cancer at some point during their lifetime. Over 42,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year, making it the fourth most common in the UK after breast, lung and prostate cancers¹.

3. Your risk of developing bowel cancer increases with age

Age plays a significant role in your likelihood of developing bowel cancer, with the risk increasing after the age of 45. More than 40% of all people diagnosed with bowel cancer are aged over 752.

4. Over half of all bowel cancer diagnoses could be prevented

Bowel cancer is a largely preventable disease, with many of the risk factors relating to lifestyle. Making positive changes to your bowel health can reduce the likelihood of developing bowel cancer by as much as 54%3. Read more on how to reduce your risk of bowel cancer.

5. Most bowel cancers start as pre-cancerous polyps (growths)

The development of bowel cancer is usually a slow process, starting with pre-cancerous polyps which can be detected and removed. When bowel cancer is detected at its earliest stages, 9 in 10 people will survive this diagnosis. Find out more about early detection and at-home bowel cancer testing.

6. There is a national screening programme for bowel cancer in the UK

From the age of 60 in England (50 in Scotland), you are eligible for NHS bowel cancer screening every 2 years. However, during the current COVID pandemic, regular screening services may have been interrupted. If you are worried about bowel cancer, Check4Cancer offers BowelCheck, a private cancer screening test that you can do from the comfort of your own home, for anyone over the age of 45.

7. Symptoms may not always be obvious

Some people may show symptoms of the cancer growing, including blood in the stool or a lump. Others may experience symptoms related to the effect of the cancer growth, such as intestinal blockages and pain. However, sometimes symptoms can be non-specific and vague, such as tiredness or weight loss. Find out more about the symptoms of bowel cancer.

Bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer in the UK, so it is crucial to remain aware of your bowel health. If you are concerned about bowel cancer, Check4Cancer offers BowelCheck, a simple testing kit you can use in the comfort of your own home to identify any abnormalities and advise on your risk factors.

References

¹ https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/bowel-cancer

² https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/bowel-cancer/risks-causes

³ https://www.bowelcanceruk.org.uk/about-bowel-cancer/risk-factors/reducing-your-risk/