Bowel Cancer Awareness Month is held in April each year. It is a fantastic annual event which aims to increase awareness of bowel cancer and raise funds towards treating this condition.
It is driven by various charitable organisations such as Bowel Cancer UK, whose main aim is ensuring there would be no more victims of bowel cancer by 2050.
Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK and each year 41,000 people are diagnosed. It is the UK’s second cancer killer after lung cancer. If diagnosed early, it is both treatable and curable. Nearly all will survive if they are diagnosed at the earliest stage of bowel cancer. Early diagnosis for bowel cancer and all other types of cancer, saves lives.
Bowel cancer can affect anybody regardless of age or background. Yet, most people are diagnosed over the age of 60 years and it is not uncommon for those much younger than 60 to be diagnosed with this type of cancer. Too many people are unaware of the signs and symptoms of bowel cancers, so spreading the word is vital in raising awareness of this disease.
Part of April’s awareness month is to highlight the symptoms of bowel cancer and encourage members of the general public to step forward and seek help and advice if they or a loved one experience any of the symptoms. A huge number of people are still not aware of the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer despite it affecting so many.
Symptoms of bowel cancer
Many of the symptoms of bowel cancer can be mistaken for haemorrhoids or IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). Try and keep track of how long you have experienced these symptoms and let your GP know.
The main symptoms of bowel cancers are:
- Blood in your stool or from your bottom
- Change in your bowel habit, this maybe the need to use the toilet more often or a feeling of not being able to empty your bowel properly
- Pain, discomfort or bloating in your lower stomach area
Less common symptoms can be:
- Persistent tiredness
- Sudden unexplained weight loss
- A lump in your abdomen or bottom
Most people with these symptoms do not usually have bowel cancer as other health conditions can cause similar symptoms. It is wise to seek advice from your GP, if you have any worries or concerns.
Living with bowel cancer
Having bowel cancer can affect your daily life in many different ways, depending on the stage it is at and the treatment which you may be given.
Surgery is the main treatment for bowel cancer and may be combined with chemotherapy, radiotherapy or biological treatments depending on your individual case. A cure is highly unlikely in more advanced cases where the cancer cannot be completely removed by surgery. Cancer can be controlled and the spread of cancer can be slowed using a combination of treatments.
Some of those who undergo bowel cancer surgery need a stoma, which can be permanent or temporary depending on the individual or diagnosis.
Treatment after early detection of bowel cancer can cure bowel cancer and stop it from coming back, but unfortunately there is always a risk that the cancer could come back at a later stage.
Remember… we are all different and we manage our own emotions differently, it’s hard to know how a diagnosis of bowel cancer will affect you. But here are some thoughts which may help empower you:
- Try and find out as much as you can about your condition
- Speak with your Consultant, Colorectal Nurse and GP for guidance
- Lean on friends and family during this time, talk with them as this can be a powerful support system
- Bowel cancer support groups can provide the opportunity to talk to others in the same situation
- Take time out for yourself. Self-care is so important for each of us
What can you do to help?
Spread the word about bowel cancer, share your knowledge with friends and colleagues. Help save lives.
Make a donation to Bowel Cancer UK or get involved in fundraising. All funding goes towards teaching people about bowel cancer symptoms and can help fund training for health care professionals in early diagnosis. Online awareness talks are available providing information about symptoms and risk factors.