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Bowel cancer awareness

Last Updated: 18 January 2019








Bowel cancer awareness

April is Bowel Cancer Awareness month, which is important because bowel cancer (or colorectal cancer) is the second biggest cause of cancer death in the UK, behind lung cancer. It kills 16,000 people every year and is more common in men. 95% of diagnoses are made in people aged 50 and over.


Bowel cancer is very treatable if detected early, with 93% of people surviving more than 5 years if caught at the earliest stage. But less than 7% of people survive more than 5 years when the cancer is discovered at the latest stage.


The following statistics from Cancer Research UK shows that most people are diagnosed at stage B or C but the percentage of people surviving more than 5 years is significantly different for both of those stages. Therefore it’s really important to see the doctor right away if you are at risk and experience any of the symptoms.


Dukes' stage at diagnosis

% of cases

Five-year relative survival*

















Symptoms of Bowel cancer

·         Bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in stools

·         A change in bowel habit lasting for 3 weeks or more

·         Unexplained weight loss

·         Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason

·         A pain or lump in your abdomen


Risk factors

·         Age – 95% of cases occur in people over 50.

·         Family history

·         Inactive lifestyle

·         Diet high in red and processed meat

·         Smoking and excess alcohol

·         Other conditions– Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis or disease in the large bowel.


In order to minimise your risk of getting bowel cancer, you should pay attention to your diet and increase the amount of fruits and vegetables and fibre. Cut down on red and processed meats too and try not to consume more than 500g of red meat a week.  Keep active with regular exercise, quit smoking and cut down on alcohol consumption.

Most importantly, be aware of the risk factors and symptoms and see your GP if you’re worried.


Bowel Cancer Screening

The following people are eligible for bowel cancer screening:

People aged:

·         60-69 in England

·         60-74 in Wales

·         60-71 in Northern Ireland

·         50-74 in Scotland


If you are eligible and registered with a GP, you should receive a letter explaining about a home-testing kit, which you will also receive. The test is designed to find people who have the disease or who are at risk of developing it before symptoms occur. If the results come back clear, you will be sent another kit in two years, or if the test is positive or abnormal, further testing may need to be done.


Remember, bowel cancer is the second biggest cause of cancer death in the UK, so be aware and take action if you’re concerned.


Written by Ruth Tongue

(MSc Nutrition)


General health
Healthy ageing
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