Bowel Cancer Screening
What are the symptoms of bowel cancer?
The most common symptoms are:
bleeding from your bottom without any obvious reason
a persistent change in your normal bowel habit
diarrhoea (looser poo), or feeling a need to go more often
constipation, or a feeling of fullness or incomplete emptying of your back passage
abdominal pain, especially if severe
a lump in your abdomen
unexplained weight loss and tiredness
Most people with these symptoms won't have cancer. However, if you have one or more of these symptoms for more than three weeks you should go and see your GP.
Why should I take part in the bowel cancer screening programme?
Your doctor strongly recommends you take the time to take part. Bowel screening has been shown to reduce the risk of dying from bowel cancer. Screening aims to detect bowel cancer at an early stage, before people are experiencing any symptoms and when treatment is more likely to be effective. Bowel screening can also detect polyps, which are not cancerous but may develop into cancer in the future. The polyps can be removed, reducing the risk of bowel cancer developing.
Bowel cancer is a disease of the colon (large bowel) or the rectum (back passage). It is sometimes called colorectal cancer. Around 1 in 17 people will get bowel cancer at some point in their lives, and it affects men and women almost equally. It is most common in people over 60 years, although it does also affect younger people in much smaller numbers.
Bowel cancer is the second largest cause of cancer deaths in the UK. However, over 90% of those diagnosed can be treated successfully, if their cancer is spotted and treated early enough. Unfortunately, the symptoms of bowel cancer may not be obvious until the disease is at a more advanced stage.
Bowel cancer screening programmes in the UK use a combination of tests to look for problems that could lead to bowel cancer, as well as making sure that it is diagnosed quickly and early in the groups of people most likely to develop the disease and this is why the doctors here recommend you take part in the screening if you are sent a kit.
If you are in a younger age group and have a strong family history, please discuss this with your GP who will assess whether early screening is appropriate.