Risks of Bowel Cancer

Cancer is a common disease that affects up to one in three people. Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the United Kingdom. The risk of developing bowel cancer increases with age 1 in 15 men and 1 in 18 women will be diagnosed with bowel cancer during their lifetime.

Bowel cancer is rare under the age of 30 years and less than 6% of patients are diagnosed with bowel cancer under the age of 50 years. There are certain criteria that suggest a hereditary type of bowel cancer and this is more likely to be in families where more than one relative was diagnosed with bowel cancer at a younger age.

Risk factors that might suggest a family history of bowel cancer include:

When multiple family members have been diagnosed with bowel cancer (or related cancers such as womb or ovarian cancer).Close relatives (parents, brothers/ sisters, or children) with bowel cancer were diagnosed before the age of 50 years.A family history of relatives with a condition called as familial adenomatous polyposis or FAP).

It is important to realise that having a relative who developed bowel cancer at an older age does not significantly increase your risk of bowel cancer.

There is a Bowel cancer screening programme in England which aims to find bowel cancer before you develop any symptoms. It is thought that the earliest cancers detected through the programme have a 90% chance of cure. Screening can prevent some bowel cancers from developing and done regularly can reduce the number of people who die from bowel cancer by 16%.

The screening can also detect polyps. These are growths that are not cancerous (benign). But they may develop into cancer over time. Polyps can easily be removed, which reduces the risk of bowel cancer developing.

Bowel cancer screening is offered every 2 years to men and women aged 60 to 74. People older than this can ask for a screening kit every 2 years by calling the Freephone number 0800 707 60 60. An additional one-off test called bowel scope screening has been introduced in England for men and women at the age of 55. You can discuss details including the advantages and disadvantages with your General Practitioner or a Colorectal Specialist.

Screening of Bowel Cancer

Whilst it is very common to have bowel symptoms, it is important to “BE BOWEL AWARE”. This means that you take note of any symptoms or signs and discuss them with your doctor. These include:

Bleeding from your back passage that is new (or different if you have had bleeding from plies or a tear in your back passage).Persistent change in your bowel habit (diarrhoea or constipation) more than three weeks.Sensation of not being able to empty your bowels after going to the toilet.You notice constant pain or a lump in your tummy.You have lost significant weight and have unexplained tiredness or anaemia.

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