Bowel Cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK. In the majority of people, the exact cause of bowel cancer is unknown, although family history can be significant.
Approximately 8 out of 10 bowel cancers are diagnosed in people over the age of 60.
Symptoms of Bowel Cancer
The symptoms of bowel cancer are:
A change in bowel habits (Diarrhoea or looser stools)
Bleeding from the back passage (rectum) or blood in stools
A lump in the right side of the abdomen, or in the rectum
A straining feeling in the rectum or sensation of an incomplete bowel movement
Pain in the abdomen or rectum
Anaemia (a low level of blood cells), caused by the tumour bleeding. This can lead to tiredness and sometimes breathlessness.
Cancer of the bowel can cause a blockage (bowel obstruction). The symptoms associated with this are:
Griping pains in the abdomen
Your family history is important, and if you do have a strong family history of bowel cancer (two or more relatives on the same side of the family) then your risk of developing bowel cancer is higher than that of the general population.
Approximately one in twenty cases of bowel cancer are caused by the inherited conditions called familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC or Lynch Syndrome).
Growths in the bowel called polyps or adenomas can develop into cancer over a long period of time. Adenomas are fairly common, but only a small percentage of them become cancer.
The risk of bowel cancer increases if you have suffered from ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease for a long period of time. Diabetes also increases the risk of bowel cancer, although the reason why is not known.
You also have an increased risk of developing bowel cancer again if you have had it before.
Screening means looking for early signs of a particular disease in people who do not have symptoms.
In England and Northern Ireland, men and women aged between 60 and 69 years old are screened every two years.
The screening test involves a faecal occult blood (FOB) test, which checks for hidden (occult) blood in the stool (Faeces). You can do the test at home by yourself.
People in high-risk groups for bowel cancer are also offered screening on the NHS. You can have screening if:
You have the inherited condition called familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)
You have the inherited condition called hereditary non polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC)
You have a strong family history of bowel cancer
You have had ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease affecting the large bowel for more than eight years
You have had polyps removed from your bowel in the past
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