It is the UK's second biggest cancer killer claiming a life every 30 minutes, yet bowel cancer spotted early can be successfully treated in over 90% of cases.
Consultant Colorectal Surgeon, Mr Simon Middleton is calling on people to recognise the symptoms so they are able to act quickly if they spot anything out of the ordinary and stresses that early treatment could mean the difference between life and death.
He said that people should be aware of what is normal so they can then recognise any changes. Figures provided by Cancer Research show that over 93 per cent of people diagnosed with bowel cancer at an early stage survive for at least five years compared with less than 7% of those diagnosed at a late stage
Mr Middleton, who practices at Spire Dunedin Hospital in Reading, said: "If you know what is normal you can then act if something out of the ordinary happens. A change in your bowel habit that lasts for three weeks or more and blood in your poo are warning signs that need acting upon as soon as possible."
Other signs include unexplained weight loss, feeling tired without reason, stomach pains or a lump in the stomach.
Patients who have bowel symptoms should be assessed in clinic by a colorectal surgeon, and are then usually investigated with either a colonoscopy (flexible camera test of the bowel) or CT scan. Another route to have such investigations is through the National Bowel Cancer Screening Programme where patients between the age of 60 and 74 are invited to participate every two years, with the aim of picking up colorectal cancer at an early stage before symptoms begin.
Mr Middleton added: "In many cases there is not a clear cut reason why some people develop bowel cancer, but you can reduce your personal risk of developing cancer by making some simple lifestyle choices."
Stop smoking: Long-term smokers are more likely than non-smokers to develop bowel cancer.
Watch your weight: After not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight is the most important thing you can do for cancer prevention.
Cut down on alcohol: Bowel cancer has been linked to a heavy intake of alcohol. The more you cut down, the more you reduce your risk.
Exercise regularly: Besides using up extra calories and helping you avoid gaining weight, being physically active also helps food to move through your digestive system more quickly.
Eat healthily: Make sure you eat plenty of dietary fibre from whole grains, seeds, fruit and vegetables. This helps to move waste quickly through your digestive system. Also drink plenty of water.
"More than 16,200 people in the UK died of bowel cancer in 2012. Bowel Cancer Awareness Month is a good time to let people know they can actually do positive things to improve their health while also to get across the message that early detection really does make a massive difference to the success of treatment," said Mr Middleton.
Spire Dunedin Hospital is part of Spire Healthcare, one of the UK's largest private hospital providers with 39 hospitals and 13 clinics across England, Wales and Scotland. The company offers a full range of integrated surgical, medical and diagnostic services.
Located in central Reading, Spire Dunedin Hospital has earned a long standing reputation for providing first class private medical care to patients in Berkshire and the Thames Valley.
About Mr Simon Middleton MB, ChB, MS, FRCS (Gen Surg)
Mr Middleton completed his general surgical training in the South Thames (West) region. His sub-specialty training is in colorectal surgery and his research was carried out during a two year period at St Mark's Hospital, Harrow. This culminated in the publication of his thesis.
His clinical interests are in the laparoscopic (keyhole) treatment of bowel cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, bowel incontinence and general surgical problems including hernias and gall bladder disease. He is highly experienced in diagnostic procedures including OGD, flexible sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy.
Mr Middleton is also the Medical Director of the British Haemorrhoid Association, and was responsible for the successful introduction of the haemorrhoidal artery ligation operation (HALO™) to the UK. He has the greatest experience of any UK surgeon in HALO and established the UK's first HALO training centre in Reading, Berkshire, where consultant surgeons from around the United Kingdom are trained.