Each year, about 36,500 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer – equal to 100 people every day. It is the second most common cancer in women and the third most common amongst men. This month is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month and Spire Gatwick Park Hospital is raising awareness of this disease, which can often present no or minimal symptoms.
Colorectal cancer (also called ‘bowel cancer’) can take between five and ten years to develop, and tumours may occur anywhere in the colon or rectum. Most bowel cancers begin as benign (non-cancerous) polyps or small growths, which may be removed easily by a procedure called a colonoscopy. However, if left untreated, some of these polyps may enlarge and change to become malignant (cancerous). Once established, bowel cancers may spread to other parts of the body, especially the liver. Eight out of ten cases are diagnosed in people over 60.
Neil Smith, consultant colorectal surgeon at Spire Gatwick Park Hospital comments: “The symptoms of bowel cancer may be quite subtle and can be mistakenly attributed to haemorrhoids or irritable bowel syndrome, leading to a delay in the patient reporting the problem. Consequently, by the time the correct diagnosis is reached, the chances of cure may be reduced. Pre-cancerous polyps may be successfully treated by colonoscopy (without the need for an operation at all), and early bowel cancers can be cured completely by surgery alone, therefore prompt identification is very important. If there is anything out of the ordinary it is always better to talk to your GP. Patients need never feel embarrassed to discuss issues concerning their bottoms or bowel habits with their doctor.”
Top tips for spotting the symptoms of bowel cancer:
- A change in your normal bowel habit lasting four weeks or more
- Bleeding from the bottom and/or blood in your stools
- Extreme tiredness without obvious cause
- A pain and/or lump in your abdomen
For more information on bowel cancer, please visit www.bowelcanceruk.org.uk/ or call the bowel cancer advisory service on 0800 8 40 35 40. To book an appointment at Spire Gatwick Park Hospital please call 01293 778 919 or click here to complete our enquiry form.