This month is bowel cancer Awareness Month hoping to bring to light the third most common cancer in the UK.
Bowl cancer is a lump created by an abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells that start in the bowel.
Statistics reveal taht about five in 100 people will develop this in the UK and of these five people, at least four will be over the age of 60.
According to Bupa research, 60 per cent of Britons say they are still not getting their five-a-day. Which is surprising when there is evidence to suggest that eating your five-a-day can help to reduce your risk of getting bowel cancer.
This evidence also suggests doing the following to reduce your risk of getting the cancer:
- Eat food high in fibre such as wholegrain bread, cereals and wholemeal pasta
- Cut down on the amount of processed meat and red meat you eat
- Maintain a healthy weight
Dr Katrina Herren, medical director, Bupa Health and Wellbeing says: "It is worrying to think that over half of the population are not eating enough portions of fruit and vegetables each day.
"What we put in our body can have a direct impact on our health; a healthy diet, which includes lots of fruit and vegetables cannot only help with preventing bowel cancer but can also help you to maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk of illness such as diabetes, Heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis and other types of cancer.
Further lifestyle advice is recommended to help reduce your risk of getting bowel cancer:
· Try to do 150 minutes (two and a half hours) of moderate exercise over a week in bouts of 10 minutes or more. You can do this by carrying out 30 minutes on at least five days each week
· If you smoke, stop
· Drink alcohol in moderation – no more than two to three units a day for women and three to four units a day for men
· Getting enough vitamin D may reduce your risk of developing a number of cancers, including bowel cancer – although more research needs to be done to be certain. Vitamin D is produced naturally by your body when your Skin is exposed to sunlight and can also be obtained from some foods, such as oily fish
Symptoms of bowel cancer
· Bowel cancer is often painless in the early stages. The Department of Health recently launched a national ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ campaign to raise awareness of the signs of bowel cancer and encourage people to visit their GP if they experience the main symptoms, which are blood in the faeces or loose stools for three weeks or more. There are other symptoms to be aware of, including:
· Weight loss without any obvious reason and/or loss of appetite
· Tiredness or breathlessness for no apparent reason – this may be caused by the small amount of blood loss from your bowel, resulting in anaemia (when there are too few red blood cells or not enough haemoglobin in your blood)
· Pain, or a lump or swelling in your abdomen (tummy)
These symptoms aren't always caused by bowel cancer. For example, problems such as piles may cause blood to appear in your faeces. However, if you have any of these symptoms, see your GP.
Dr Katrina Herren continues: “Most people may experience some of these symptoms from time to time and it can be an embarrassing topic to discuss. However, if you experience any of these symptoms you must visit your GP.
“If it’s not serious it will put your mind at rest. If it is cancer, the earlier it is diagnosed, the better the outlook.”
Causes of bowel cancer
The causes of bowel cancer aren't fully understood at present but your risk of bowel cancer increases if you have:
· A family history of bowel cancer
· One of two inherited bowel conditions that increase your risk – familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), also known as Lynch syndrome
· A long-term bowel condition, such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis
· A diet that is low in fibre, fruit and vegetables and high in red and processed meats
· An inactive lifestyle or are obese
Screening for bowel cancer
Screening is important for detecting bowel cancer in its early stages. The Department of Health has introduced a bowel cancer screening programme in England. Bowel cancer screening kits are sent to men and women aged between 60 and 69, although if you're older you can also request a kit. There are different programmes running in the rest of the UK. Ask your GP whether the screening programme has started in your area.
The screening kit contains a faecal occult blood (FOB) test that can detect small amounts of blood in your faeces. The FOB test doesn't diagnose bowel cancer, but the results show if you need to have your bowel examined.