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Bowel cancer is curable if caught early – do you know the symptoms?

Published: 27th April 2017 14:16

 

Dr Neil Galletly, Consultant Gastroenterologist at Spire St Anthony's Hospital believes it's a tragedy that people do not react to symptoms or take up the free bowel cancer screening test in England.

He explains:

 "I want all adults to be aware of the symptoms and not simply blame them on something else. Although bowel cancer is more common people over 60, I have seen patients in their 30's and 40's who thought a change of diet, hormones, haemorrhoids, even childbirth was the cause of what we later diagnose as bowel cancer. It saddens me people don't know the typical symptoms and see their GP as soon as possible. And those without symptoms should take up the offer of screening for bowel cancer whenever they are invited to."

The symptoms:

• Bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your poo
• A change in bowel habit lasting three weeks or more
• Unexplained weight loss
• Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
• A pain or lump in your tummy

"Whatever your age, if you have any of the symptoms you must see a doctor."

Screening


Why are only half of the adults in this area taking up their bowel cancer screening test? Currently only 57.9% take up the invitation to be screened and it is even lower in Sutton and Croydon. The test is available to all men and women aged 60 to 74 and if caught early, bowel cancer can be cured. So why are over a third of people who receive the test pack in the post not sending it back?

• Around a quarter (24%) of bowel cancer cases in England are diagnosed as an emergency
• Around 7 in 10 (68%) of these cases are diagnosed late (stages III or IV)
• If people get screened and seek medical advice for bowel symptoms early, they are much less likely to present as an emergency and much more likely to have earlier stage disease diagnosed
• In April across the UK, nearly 3,500 people will be diagnosed with bowel cancer and over 1,300 people will die of the disease

Treatment

At Spire St Anthony's hospital, Dr Galletly explains there are several options:


"The treatments for bowel cancer generally include surgery and chemotherapy, but exactly what is required will depend on, amongst other things, the stage of the cancer. The earlier the diagnosis, the more successful the treatment and the better the long term prognosis. People are scared at the thought of colostomy bags, but the vast majority of the time this isn't needed if the cancer is caught early."

Be kind to your bowel - look after yourself and reduce the risk
Prevention is always better than cure. The following tips can lower your risk of developing bowel cancer and - hopefully - help you live a long and healthy life:


• Reduce your weekly intake of processed meat and red meat - Eating processed meat (e.g. bacon, sausages, hot dogs, salami, corned beef, beef jerky and ham) increases your risk of developing bowel cancer. Part of the reason is thought to be chemicals that can form during meat processing. Red meat (e.g. beef, lamb and pork) probably also increases the risk. Red meat can be an important source of key nutrients in the diet so moderation rather than complete avoidance of red meat is the key.
• Cut down on alcohol - Even drinking one unit of alcohol per day can increase your risk of bowel cancer. Alcohol also increases your risk of breast cancer, mouth cancer, liver cancer and oesophageal (gullet) cancer.
• Stop smoking - Smokers have a 20% higher risk of developing bowel cancer than non-smokers. Smoking also increases your risk of at least 13 other cancers including cancer of the lung, pancreas, mouth and kidneys. Smoking is the most important preventable cause of cancer in the world. It also increases your risk of heart attacks and strokes.
• Lose weight - Obese people have a higher risk of bowel cancer than non-obese people. Obesity also increases your risk of diabetes, heart disease and liver disease.
• Increase your weekly intake of dietary fibre, fruit, vegetables and whole grains
• Take regular exercise

Dr Galletly concludes: "If people take this seriously we can really bring down the mortality rate of one of the more curable yet common forms of cancer."
Should you wish to be tested and are not eligible under the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme you can undergo a test at Spire St Anthony's for under £60 and then a consultation with Dr Galletly is £240. To speak to Dr Galletly about a test, please tel: 07988 244078 or email: gastro@live.co.uk

About Spire Healthcare
Spire Healthcare is a leading independent hospital group in the United Kingdom. We deliver high standards of care, with integrity and compassion and from high-quality facilities to our insured, Self-pay and NHS patients.
From our 38 hospitals, 10 clinics and two Specialist Cancer Care Centres across England, Wales and Scotland, we provide diagnostics, in-patient, daycase and out-patient care. We also own and operate the sports medicine, physiotherapy and rehabilitation brand, Perform.
Working in partnership with over 3,800 experienced consultants, our hospitals delivered tailored, personalised care to more than 274,000 in-patients and daycase patients in 2016.
Spire Healthcare offers in-patient/daycase procedures in areas including orthopaedics, gynaecology, cardiology, neurology, oncology and general surgery and also diagnostic services including imaging and pathology, and is the principal independent provider byvolume of knee and hip operations in the United Kingdom. We also offers out-patient services, such as consulting, minor procedures, treatments, health checks and physiotherapy.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION
The NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme can detect bowel cancer at an early stage in people with no symptoms when it is easier to treat and a greater chance of survival. If you're registered with a GP and aged 60-74, you will receive a test in the post every two years. You carry out the simple test at home in private and it comes with step by step instructions. The test looks for hidden blood in your poo, which could be an early sign of bowel cancer.

The NHS offers two types of bowel cancer screening to adults registered with a GP in England:
Faecal occult blood (FOB) test - all men and women aged 60 to 74 are invited to carry out an FOB test at home. They're sent the home test kit every two years through the post until they reach the age of 74. The FOB test checks for the presence of blood in a stool sample, which could be an early sign of bowel cancer
Bowel scope screening - this additional one-off test is being gradually introduced in England. It is offered to men and women at the age of 55. As of March 2015, about two-thirds of screening centres were beginning to offer this test to 55-year-olds. It involves a doctor or nurse using a thin, flexible instrument to look inside the lower part of the bowel and remove any small growths called polyps, which could eventually turn into cancer

 

http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/bowel-cancer/diagnosis-and-treatment#ref-1

www.bowelcanceruk.org.uk

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