What Is Bowel Cancer?
Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, is the third most common cancer in the UK; around 40,000 people are diagnosed with this condition each year. It usually occurs in those over the age of 60. However, as it takes many years to develop it can be prevented if small pre-cancerous growths are detected and removed at an earlier age. If bowel cancer is detected early then the chance of cure can be up to 90%.
Causes Of Bowel Cancer
The cause of the disease is not fully known but the risk increases as you get older, if you have a family history of the disease, a long-term inflammatory bowel condition, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. A diet low in fibre, fruit and vegetables and high in processed meats, and obesity, can all contribute to the development of bowel cancer.
Symptoms Of Bowel Cancer
The main symptoms are blood in the stools, changes in bowel habit, such as more frequent, looser stools and abdominal pain. But these symptoms are also common with haemorrhoids or in response to something you have eaten.
You may also experience weight loss, anaemia, fatigue and faecal incontinence.
Almost nine out of ten people with bowel cancer are over the age of 60 so the symptoms are more important as people get older and if they are persistent despite simple treatments.
Diagnosis Of Bowel Cancer
A doctor will ask you about your symptoms and whether you have any family history of bowel cancer before a specialist carries out a more detailed examination.
This can be made with either a flexible sigmoidoscopy, a colonoscopy or a CT colonography
The sigmoidoscopy and the colonoscopy use a narrow, flexible, telescopic camera that can detect bowel cancer. The colonoscopy can remove pre-cancerous growths so reducing the development of bowel cancer later in life while the sigmoidoscopy provides doctors with a look inside the rectum and the lower part of the bowel.
The CT colonography, also known as a ‘virtual colonoscopy’, uses a scanner to produce 3-D images of he large bowel and rectum and identify cancerous growths.
If cancer is diagnosed, then CT and MRI scanning is needed to confirm the extent of tumour and plan further management
Treatment Of Bowel Cancer
The most effective treatment is prevention through screening but options will depend on the size of the tumour and whether or not it has spread.
If it is detected early enough, treatment can cure bowel cancers. Surgery may be required to remove part of the bowel and symptoms can also be controlled and the spread of cancer contained by using a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
If the cancer spreads into muscles surrounding the colon, it will usually be necessary to remove an entire section of your colon. This is known as a colectomy and it can be performed by open or keyhole surgery.
To ask a question about bowel cancer or to book an appointment, contact our specialist team available Monday – Friday 8am – 6pm and on Saturday from 9am – 1pm.
Our gastrointestinal specialists team have a dedicated and caring approach and will seek to find you the earliest appointment possible with the correct specialist for your needs. If you are self-paying you don’t need a referral from your GP. You can simply refer yourself and book an appointment.
If you have medical insurance (e.g. Bupa, Axa PPP, Aviva), you will need to contact your insurer for authorisation for any treatment and, in most cases, you will require a referral letter from your GP. If you do not have a GP, then we have an in-house private GP practice that you can use.Alternatively we can suggest the most appropriate course of action for you to take, given your location and individual circumstance.