Consultant Gastroenterologist Dr Subramaniam Ramakrishnan 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 make a big difference to the outcomes for patients.
He said that people should be aware of common symptoms of bowel cancer so they can approach their doctors for referral.
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
Dr Subramaniam Ramakrishnan who practices at Spire Cheshire Hospital in Warrington, Cheshire said: “If you know your body then you can act quickly if something out of the ordinary happens. A change in your bowel habits that lasts for three weeks or more, blood in your faeces or fresh bleeding are all warning signs and you should visit your GP as early as possible."
Other tell-tale signs include unexplained weight loss, feeling tired without reason, stomach pains or a lump in the stomach region.
Dr Ramakrishnan added: “There is no clear reason why some people develop bowel cancer while others do not 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.
Patients who have bowel symptoms should be assessed in clinic by bowel specialists and and depending on their circumstances are then usually investigated with either a colonoscopy (flexible camera test of the bowel) or CT scan.
The National Bowel Cancer Screening Programme is a screening programme for all between the age of 60 and 74. They are invited to participate every two years, with the aim of picking up bowel cancer at an early stage before symptoms begin or to detect polyps of the large bowel which turn into cancer if not removed.
“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 Dr Ramakrishnan
Gaynor Naylor from Great Sankey, Warrington was diagnosed with bowel cancer in December 2013.
Gaynor said: “It’s vital to act quickly when you recognise what is normal for you has changed. I never had pain or bleeding, but my bowel habits became irregular. I was exhausted all the time and I lost a lot of weight. People can have different symptoms so don’t wait, ignoring a problem won’t make it go away. See your G.P. it’s important to be checked as soon as possible.
If a bowel screening pack comes in the post once you are sixty, use it don’t put it to one side and forget it. A simple test that could save your life”.