Why should you check for bowel cancer?

Early detection of bowel cancer saves lives. The number of people dying of bowel cancer has been falling since the 1970s, and this may be due to earlier diagnosis and better treatment[1].

In our third blog for Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, we look at the reasons why you should get tested for bowel cancer and the benefits of cancer screening.

Why should I get tested?

Bowel cancer is a very treatable and curable disease. The earlier it’s diagnosed, the easier it is to treat and the more likely it is that treatment will be successful. Nearly everyone survives bowel cancer if diagnosed at the earliest stage. However, this drops significantly as the disease develops[1].

It is believed that bowel cancer usually grows very slowly over a period of up to 10 years. Most bowel cancers develop from pre-cancerous growths called polyps which are found on the wall of the bowel. Most polyps do not produce any symptoms, are common as we get older and are not cancerous. However, sometimes polyps can become cancerous and develop into a tumour in the bowel. If left untreated, the cancer can spread to other parts of the body, such as the lymph glands, liver and lungs.

What are the benefits of cancer screening?

Bowel cancer screening can save lives. It allows you to check for the disease when there are no symptoms and aims to detect the cancer at an early stage, when treatment has the best chance of working. The test can also find polyps which might develop into cancer – these can usually be removed to lower the risk of bowel cancer.

There is a national screening programme for bowel cancer in the UK which starts at age 60 (50 in Scotland). However, if you are worried about bowel cancer and want to get tested earlier, 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. Read more about BowelCheck here.