Bowel Cancer Awareness Month
April is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, a fantastic annual opportunity to raise awareness of bowel cancer.
This Bowel Cancer Awareness Month the aim is to shine a light on the varied and many people affected by bowel cancer. But it doesn’t just impact the person diagnosed. It affects families, friends and colleagues, doctors and nurses, scientists and researchers. That’s millions of people right across the UK.
What is bowel cancer?
• Bowel cancer is also called colorectal cancer. It affects the large bowel, which is made up of the colon and rectum.
• The cells in your body normally divide and grow in a controlled way. When cancer develops, the cells change and can grow in an uncontrolled way.
• Most bowel cancers develop from pre-cancerous growths, called polyps. But not all polyps develop into cancer. If your doctor finds any polyps, he or she can remove them to prevent them becoming cancerous.
• Cancer cells may stay in the bowel or they might spread to other parts of the body, like the liver or lungs.
What are the possible symptoms of bowel cancer?
The symptoms of bowel (colorectal) cancer in men and women can include:
• bleeding from the back passage (rectum) or blood in your poo
• a change in your normal bowel habit, such as looser poo, pooing more often or constipation
• a lump that your doctor can feel in your back passage or tummy (abdomen), more commonly on the right side
• a feeling of needing to strain in your back passage (as if you need to poo), even after opening your bowels
• losing weight
• pain in your abdomen or back passage
• tiredness and breathlessness caused by a lower than normal level of red blood cells (anaemia)
Sometimes cancer can block the bowel. This is called a bowel obstruction. The symptoms include:
• cramping pains in the abdomen
• feeling bloated
• constipation and being unable to pass wind
• being sick
A bowel obstruction is an emergency. You should see your doctor quickly or go to A&E at your nearest hospital if you think you have a bowel obstruction.
Read more about bowel cancer symptoms.
When can I attend a NHS bowel cancer screening?
NHS bowel cancer screening is only offered to people aged 55 or over, as this is when you’re more likely to get bowel cancer:
• if you’re 55, you’ll automatically be invited for a one-off bowel scope screening test, if it’s available in your area
• if you’re 60 to 74, you’ll automatically be invited to do a home testing kit every 2 years
• if you’re 75 or over, you can ask for a home testing kit every 2 years by calling the free bowel cancer screening helpline on 0800 707 60 60
If you’re too young for screening but are worried about a family history of bowel cancer, speak to your GP for advice.
Always see a GP if you have symptoms of bowel cancer at any age – don’t wait to have a screening test.