30 November 2016
It appears that Santa Claus will have lots of competition in the beard department this December - thanks to a campaign aimed at highlighting bowel cancer.
According to Cancer Research UK figures, bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK with more than 41,900 new cases diagnosed every year.
But despite it claiming the equivalent of a life every 30 seconds, CRUK figures show that more than 93% of people diagnosed with bowel cancer at an early stage survive for at least five years.
“That is why it is so important to raise awareness of the symptoms,” explained Solihull surgeon Mr Charles Hendrickse. “The more people know about the disease the quicker they will be able to react if they think they have the symptoms.”
Now ‘Decembeard’ is hoping to help people ‘face the facts’ by getting men to grow beards throughout the month. The idea follows the international success of the Movember campaign which promotes men’s health issues.
Mr Hendrickse, who specialises in colorectal cancer and inflammatory bowel disease at Spire parkway Hospital in Solihull, said: “I am happy to support anything that promotes bowel cancer awareness – although I don’t want Decembeard to make people think this is a man’s problem – the actual figures show more women are affected than men!
“The important thing is that people should be fully aware of what they are looking for - 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 new bowel symptoms should be assessed in clinic by a colorectal surgeon or gastroenterologist 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. For further details ask your GP.
Mr Hendrickse 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.
For more information about how to support Decembeard visit www.decembeard.org