Bowel Cancer Awareness Month – April 2024

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April is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month. This is an annual opportunity to spread awareness of this disease and help support the charities in the work they do to support families and patients of cancer.

What is Bowel Cancer?

Bowel Cancer is one of the most common cancers seen in the UK and can be located anywhere in your bowel. Most commonly, this includes the large bowel, rectum and colon, but it can occur in all areas of the bowel. It is usually found in people over the age of 50 and is more likely to develop in people who smoke, who have inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s and in people who are prone to small growths on their bowels called polyps.

There are five different types of bowel cancer. These are Colon cancer, Rectal Cancer, Anal Cancer, Small Bowel Cancer and Anorectal Melanoma Cancer. How serious the cancer is usually depends on how big the cancer is, if the cancer has spread (metastasised) and your general health and immune system.


The main five red flag symptoms of Bowel Cancer are:

  • changes in bowel habits, e.g. frequency and consistency
  • blood in your poo/bleeding from your bottom
  • pain or a lump in your tummy
  • weight loss for no obvious reason
  • extreme tiredness and fatigue for no reason.

It is important to know what the symptoms are and to take them seriously. If any of the symptoms persist for longer than two weeks, then go to your GP to raise the issue. Some of these symptoms are common and can also be a cause of other conditions, so it is always best to check. The earlier you can catch bowel cancer, the better the chance of successful treatment.

Treatment and Bowel Cancer testing

When you go to see your GP with your symptoms, they will take a detailed history and will most likely examine your abdomen and rectum. They could then arrange for a blood test and a FIT test to check for hidden blood in your poo. If needed, the GP should refer you to the hospital for a colonoscopy or endoscopy for further investigations within two weeks. If you are over 60, you may also be invited to take part in the Bowel Cancer Screening, which will help detect the risk of bowel cancer.

Should you receive a bowel cancer diagnosis, you will then have an appointment with a member of the Multidisciplinary Team of doctors to go through any test results and the pros and cons of each and every treatment option that is available to you.

This usually is dependent on the type of cancer you have, the grade of it and whether it has spread.

Possible treatments for bowel cancer include:

  • Surgery – This would be used to remove the cancer from your bowel or even to remove the part of the bowel affected by the cancer. You will receive lots of support during the recovery including scans to ensure that the surgery was successful.
  • Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy is a medicine that kills the cancer cells in your body. This option usually happens if surgery is unsuccessful or not an option and also if the cancer has spread to other areas of the body.
  • Radiotherapy – This treatment option uses radiation to kill the cancer cells and is often used if the cancer has spread further than just the bowel.
  • Targeted medicines and immunotherapy – These medicines are used to target cancer cells and kill them in the body generally. It also helps your immune system become strong enough to kill the cancer itself.

Figures and statistics

Over 95% of bowel cancers occur in patients over the age of 50, and it is the fourth most common cancer. Unfortunately, nearly 43,000 new bowel cancer cases are diagnosed every year in the UK, with nearly 17,000 of these cases resulting in the death of the patient, as bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer.

However, even though the figures seem high, bowel cancer is treatable and, in most cases, curable if caught early.

It is so important to go to your GP and not be embarrassed to talk about our bowel health so more people can catch this disease early and be treated successfully. We need to break down the stigma behind talking about these issues in order to raise awareness about this horrible yet treatable condition.

Useful websites and resources for information on Bowel Cancer

For any more information about bowel cancer, the symptoms, treatments or even support that is available for patients and families, please go to the following websites:

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