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Bowel Cancer: what you need to know

Tuesday 2nd September

It’s the third most common type of cancer in the UK and yet it is one of the least talked about – that’s why knowing the facts can be life-saving. 

Although it’s one of the more common problems, bowel cancer survival rates have improved a lot over the past forty years. Recent estimates show that about 50% of people with rectal or colon cancer live for at least ten years. Of course, the earlier the cancer is identified, the better the patients’ chances of making a full recovery, which is what makes it so important to know the symptoms of bowel cancer.

If caught in the early stages, 90% of patients will survive for another five years and a cure is usually possible. When the cancer reaches the fourth stage, the chances of a five year survival rate drop to 6%; this is one of the reasons why bowel cancer screening is now being made available to more people in the UK.

What are the symptoms of bowel cancer?

Spotting the early signs of bowel cancer could save your life, so familiarise yourself and keep a look out for the following:

What to do if you think you may have bowel cancer

If you are suffering from any of the above symptoms for longer than three weeks, then you should make an appointment with your GP. They will then ask you some questions and undergo a short physical examination.

Too many people avoid discussing the symptoms, either because of embarrassment or because they are worried about hearing the worst. The important thing to remember, however, is that getting a bowel cancer screening could save your life. The sooner you get this checked out, the more positive your bowel cancer prognosis is likely to be, so get checked – the sooner you know where you stand, the better!

Bowel cancer treatment

If bowel cancer is detected, there are several ways to move forward. A multidisciplinary team of specialists will be there to give you support in a number of different areas. Treatment for bowel cancer usually involves surgery, but there may also be chemotherapy, radiotherapy or biological therapy alongside this.

Whether or not bowel cancer surgery is the best option for you will be decided by your doctors, who will judge the best course of treatment, depending on the size of the cancer, what grade it is, whether the cancer has spread to other parts of your body and your general health.

Although talking about bowel cancer can be a challenge for some people, the common nature of the condition means that there are people out there who can help support and reassure you. Whether it’s in the form of a medical professional, a local support group or an online forum for sufferers, don’t be afraid to talk about bowel cancer.

Sources:

http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-help/type/bowel-cancer/treatment/statistics-and-outlook-for-bowel-cancer

http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Cancer-of-the-colon-rectum-or-bowel/Pages/treatment.aspx

http://www.macmillan.org.uk/

http://www.beatingbowelcancer.org/bowel-cancer-symptoms

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