Most bowel cancers develop from pre-cancerous growths, these are called polyps, however not all polyps will develop into a cancer. Polyps do not usually cause symptoms so most people will not know they even have them.
You are more at risk of getting bowel cancer if you:
- are 50 years old or over – bowel cancer risk increases with age but it can affect people at ANY age
- have a family history of bowel cancer
- have a genetic condition which is linked to bowel cancer
- have polyps (non-cancerous growths) in your bowel
- have a longstanding inflammatory bowel disease, for example Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease
- have type 2 diabetes
- have an unhealthy lifestyle, for example poor diet, drinking alcohol, smoking and lack of physical activity and exercise.
Symptoms of bowel cancer include:
- bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your faeces (poo)
- a persistent and unexplained change in bowel habit
- pain or a lump in your tummy
- weight loss with no explanation
- extreme tiredness for no obvious reason.
If you are concerned about any of these symptoms, always visit your GP. There is no need to be embarrassed, they are used to seeing patients who have bowel problems.
If you have symptoms that you are worried may be cancer, it is important to still seek advice from your GP surgery. Your symptoms do not mean you have cancer and could be caused by a number of common conditions but it is always best to get checked.
Screening is where people with no symptoms are invited to complete a test which looks for blood in their poo. If you are invited to take a test, it’s important to do it. Detecting cancer earlier makes it easier to treat and could save your life.
If you are between 60-74 and registered with a GP, you will receive an NHS screening test in the post every two years. This is called a Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) test and is a kit you use to collect small samples of poo. Screening can detect tiny amounts of blood in the poo which cannot usually be seen.
For more information about screening