Bowel cancer

Bowel cancer, also known as colon or rectal cancer, is the 4th most common cancer in the UK accounting for 11% of all new cancer cases, and is predominantly diagnosed in the over 60s.

Symptoms

There are a number of potential symptoms to be aware of concerning bowel cancer, which include:

  • Blood in the stool
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • A persistent change in bowel habits, such as going to the toilet more regularly
  • A pain or lump in the tummy

However, these symptoms can be caused by other conditions and are often not an indicator of bowel cancer. For example, bleeding when emptying the bowels could be due to haemorrhoids.

To eliminate all other possible illnesses, it is recommended to see your GP if you notice a change in your body. Early diagnosis is key especially in the treatment of cancer.

Causes

There are a number of factors that may increase your risk of bowel cancer. If there is history in your family of bowel cancer, you may be more likely to suffer with the disease too. Lifestyle factors that increase your risk:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Smoking
  • Drinking alcohol excessively
  • Age, majority of people diagnosed with bowel cancer are 60+.

Diagnosing bowel cancer

If you are worried that you may have bowel cancer, you should see your GP or specialist who will discuss your symptoms, and will ask questions concerning your lifestyle and potential family history of bowel cancer.

Your GP may carry out a rectal examination; this is straightforward and should not cause any pain.

You may be required to undergo further tests such as blood tests, either at your GP surgery or in hospital. A Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) may be arranged if you have symptoms other than rectal bleeding. This involves providing a stool sample that is tested for traces of blood.

You may then be referred onwards for other tests at a hospital such as a colonoscopy.

Treatment

In some cases, surgery is the most viable treatment method, and the patient would undergo an operation to remove the cancerous section of the bowel. This is often the only treatment needed in order to eradicate bowel cancer altogether. Your surgeon will discuss any potential risks of the operation with you, along with any lifestyle changes that may need to be made and the recovery process.

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy can be effective in killing the cancerous cells. There are potential side effects to these treatments, which will be thoroughly briefed to you by your specialist.

As research is being conducted into all types of cancer and specifically bowel cancer, there are increasingly more targeted therapies becoming available. Your surgeon will decide if any of these may be successful in treating your bowel cancer.

To find out more or make an appointment with Mr Hornung, please call 0161 495 6148