April is Bowel Cancer Awareness and Swindon Clinical Commissioning Group is marking the occasion by encouraging people to learn the signs, symptoms and possible early warning signs of the disease. 

One of the most common types of cancer to affect people in the UK, bowel cancer is usually more prominent in older people but has been known to be diagnosed in people under 60 years of age. 


What to look out for

As with all types of cancer, finding bowel cancer early can make it easier to treat and will often give a person the best chance of making a recovery. 

The three main symptoms to look out for are: 

  • Noticing blood when going to the toilet 
  • Needing to use the toilet more often and with looser-than-usual poo
  • Getting tummy pain (including bloating) immediately after eating 

While these symptoms are usually the result of something not as serious as bowel cancer, any person who has experienced one or more of them on multiple occasions in the last three weeks is encouraged to speak to their GP.

This advice is particularly relevant for anybody aged over 60. 


What causes bowel cancer?

It can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what causes bowel cancer, however experts believe the following factors could play a part: 

  • Age (almost 90 per cent of bowel cancer patients are aged 60 or over)
  • Diet (research has shown that eating large quantities of both red and processed meat, such as bacon and sausages, can increase a person's bowel cancer risk) 
  • Weight (being overweight and obese is said to be a leading cause of bowel cancer) 
  • Poor lifestyle choices (smoking, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and not getting enough exercise are all thought to be contributing factors) 
  • Family history (bowel cancer is often common in families who have experienced multiple diagnoses)


Getting tested for bowel cancer

When a patient shows symptoms of bowel cancer, a GP will normally carry out an examination during the initial consultation. 

This usually involves examining a person's bottom, as well as their tummy, for anything unusual. 

Additionally, patients will be asked to take a blood test to check for iron deficiency anaemia. 

GPs often refer suspected bowel cancer patients to hospital for further investigations, which are overseen by a specialist. 

These procedures usually involve looking inside a person's bowel with a telescopic camera. 


Treating bowel cancer

There is no definitive method for treating bowel cancer as a person's treatment will be influenced by how far their cancer has spread. 

In most cases, however, a person will have an operation to remove the cancer, which is usually followed up by either chemotherapy or radiotherapy. 

As with all cancers, a complete cure is not guaranteed and most patients will have to attend regular check-ups to see if the cancer has returned. 


More information

Further details on bowel cancer can be found by visiting the NHS website or by clicking here

Additional information on Bowel Cancer Awareness Month can be found online by visiting www.bowelcanceruk.org.uk