What is Bowel Cancer?
Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK and is also known as colorectal cancer.
Bowel cancer occurs in both men and women, although it is more common in men. Risk of bowel cancer increases with age, with steep increases in people aged over 50.
The disease is treatable and curable, if it is diagnosed early. If you have signs of bowel cancer, the earlier you get a bowel cancer diagnosis, the better the chance of a successful treatment.
Causes of Bowel Cancer?
The causes of bowel cancer are not fully understood. Most people diagnosed with bowel cancer are older than 50.
Other risk factors for colon cancer include:
- A family history of the disease
- Inflammatory bowel conditions, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
- A personal history of previous colon cancer or polyps
- A low-fibre, high-fat diet
- Radiation –uncertain cause
Symptoms of Bowel Cancer
Most cases of bowel cancer begin as small, benign (pre-cancerous) growths called polyps in the intestine. Over time, some of these polyps can become cancerous colon cancers.
In the early stages of this disease, many people may experience no signs of bowel cancer. When symptoms appear, they are likely to vary, depending on the cancer’s size and location in your large intestine. Symptoms of bowel cancer can include:
- Rectal bleeding (bleeding from your bottom) and/or blood in your poo
- A persistent and unexplained change in bowel habits
- A feeling that your bowel doesn’t empty completely
- Unexplained weight loss
- Extreme tiredness (fatigue)
- Abdominal pain (tummy ache)
- Stomach cramps
- A lump in your tummy
Screening for Bowel Cancer
Bowel cancer screening can help to identify and remove polyps in the intestine. So regular screening tests can help to prevent bowel cancer before it has a chance to develop.
In England and Wales, there are two types of NHS bowel cancer screening programmes.
- Bowel Scope: At the age of 55, people are offered a bowel scope. This a one-off flexible sigmoidoscopy – a short test that examines the last third of the large bowel only.
- Faecal occult blood test (FOBT): People aged 60 or above (50 or above in Scotland) are offered a stool-based test that looks for the presence of blood in the poo called a faecal occult blood test (FOBT). If these test results are positive, they are invited for a colonoscopy.
It may sometimes be appropriate to offer a CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) as the first test.
No matter how old you are, you should always see your GP as soon as possible if you experience any symptoms of bowel cancer.
You can find our more information about the bowel screening programme in your area from your GP surgery.
Since bowel cancer rates start to increase from the age of 45, some people choose to be tested privately. All bowel cancer screening tests at OneWelbeck are carried out in a custom-built facility in London that uses the latest medical technology.
Treatment for Bowel Cancer
Your treatment will depend on the size and location of the cancer, as well as the stage of the disease, and how far it has spread. Most people have surgery for colon cancer that hasn’t spread.
If the disease is more advanced, chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy may also be used. These treatments can make the cancer easier to remove and reduce the risk of it coming back.
New treatment approaches are looking at biological therapies that involve the use of monoclonal antibodies designed to reduce the risk of it coming back.
Based on the results of your colon cancer screening tests at OneWelbeck, your private consultant can refer you to colorectal surgeons and oncologists to discuss the best bowel cancer treatments and care for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does a family history of bowel cancer increase my risk?
Most cases of bowel cancer do occur in people that have no family history but if you do have a close family member who was diagnosed with bowel cancer before the age of 60, you will have an increased risk of developing the disease.
If I have blood in my poo, do I have bowel cancer?
Not necessarily. Blood in your stool (poo) can be caused by other conditions, such as bowel polyps, haemorrhoids (piles), anal fissures, gastroenteritis, diverticular disease, peptic ulcer and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
You should always see your GP to investigate blood in your stool.
Dr Saunders is what great care used to be. He is a charming chap who is obviously passionate about medicine and his patients. He goes the extra mile, sometimes I suspect going way beyond what he is paid to do. His kindness, skill and professionalism would make me recommend him to a relative or friend.Patient treated at Northwick Park Hospital
Specialists in Bowel Cancer
At OneWelbeck Digestive Health, our team consists of nationally accredited bowel cancer screening colonoscopists. These are specialist doctors who perform colonoscopy procedures. They have had to pass an additional test in order to be able to perform bowel cancer screenings.
Our bowel cancer specialists also have higher polyp and cancer detection rates than average. Their clinical performance is continuously monitored by Public Heath England. As leaders in their field, our specialists provide rapid, high-quality-bowel cancer screening and diagnostic services.
Colon cancer tests will vary based on your individual circumstances. You can review and discuss the most appropriate tests for you during a personal consultation with a bowel cancer specialist at OneWelbeck in London.
In most cases, you will receive the results of these bowel cancer screening tests at OneWelbeck on the same day and can return home without admission into hospital.
To ask a question about our procedures at OneWelbeck or to book an appointment, contact our team today.
We are available from Monday to Friday: 8am – 8pm.