Bowel cancer is a general term for cancer that begins in the large bowel and is one of the most common types of cancer. Most people diagnosed with it are over the age of 60, however, every year over 2,500 younger people are diagnosed with bowel cancer in the UK. While this is only around six per cent of those diagnosed, this number is slowly increasing and If caught early enough, bowel cancer can be treated and prevented. Bowel cancer in young people often goes unnoticed until its too late, with this come various issues and complications.
What are the issues?
- Delayed diagnosis – younger patients report having to see their GP many times, sometimes more than five times, before being referred for crucial diagnostic tests, as bowel cancer in younger people isn’t often suspected.
- Access to genetic testing – patients diagnosed with bowel cancer should be tested for Lynch syndrome, a genetic condition that increases the risk of bowel cancer at a younger age. Yet many are still not being tested and access to regular colonoscopy, which can reduce the chance of dying from bowel cancer by 72% in people at high risk, is patchy across the UK.
- A lack of awareness – many younger people and healthcare professionals are not aware of the symptoms of bowel cancer, and are not aware of bowel cancer as a disease young.
The symptoms of bowel cancer can be subtle and do not necessarily make you feel ill. However, it’s worth trying simple treatments for a short time to see if they get better.
More than 90% of people with bowel cancer have 1 of the following combinations of symptoms:
- A persistent change in bowel habit – pooing more often, with looser, runnier poos and sometimes abdominal pain
- Blood in the poo without other symptoms of piles (haemorrhoids) – this makes it unlikely the cause is haemorrhoids
- Abdominal pain, discomfort or bloating always brought on by eating – sometimes resulting in a reduction in the amount of food eaten and weight loss
In some cases, bowel cancer can stop digestive waste passing through the bowel. This is known as a bowel obstruction. Symptoms of a bowel obstruction can include:
- Intermittent, and occasionally severe, abdominal pain – this is always bought on by eating
- Unintentional weight loss – with persistent abdominal pain
- Constant swelling of the tummy – with abdominal pain
- Being sick – with constant abdominal swelling
In the UK you don’t qualify for the NHS bowel cancer ‘FIT’ test until you’re 60, but 10% of colorectal cancer cases are diagnosed under 50’s, and 73% are diagnosed at later stage.
At Pall Mall Medical, we offer an at home, bowel cancer testing kit. ColoAlert® is an award-winning next-generation colorectal cancer home screening test developed to detect changes in the bowel earlier and more accurately than the standard ‘FIT’ test and testing is recommended every three years from the age of 45.
The test is designed to detect blood and mutated DNA in the stool for the early detection of bowel cancer before any symptoms or bleeding may occur. This offers better early detection than faecal occult blood tests alone. Bowel cancer can be cured if it is detected in the early stages, ColoAlert detects 85 % of colorectal cancer cases and often in very early stages of the disease.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, the ColoAlert test can help to rule out bowel cancer and provide you with peace of mind.
For more information on ColoAlert® testing click here or call 03300 58 44 55.