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Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK.

Issues to do with bowel movements are often seen as embarrassing and so people may chose to ignore their issues and not go to the GP. It’s important to remember that doctors are used to seeing lots of people with bowel problems and that there is nothing to be embarrassed about.

What is bowel cancer?

Bowel cancer is a general term for cancer that begins in the large bowel. Depending on where the cancer starts, bowel cancer is sometimes called colon or rectal cancer.

Who is at higher risk?

If you are included in some of these risk categories, it doesn’t mean you will definitely get cancer. Similar to if you are not included in these categories, it doesn’t mean you definitely won’t get cancer. But it is good to be aware of your risks and any factors that might give you an increased chance of developing bowel cancer. These factors include:

Age – 9 out of 10 cases of new cases are diagnosed in people over the age of 50

Family History – If one or more family members have been previously diagnosed

Bowel History – Having had non-cancerous growths or polyps in your bowel or a longstanding inflammatory bowel disease such as Chron’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

Diabetes – Those who have Type 2 diabetes

Lifestyle – If you live an unhealthy lifestyle including by not limited to being a smoker, overweight or obese, or drinking heavily

What are the symptoms?

–  Bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your poo

–  A persistent and unexplained change in bowel habit

–  Unexplained weight loss

–  Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason

–  Pain or lump in your tummy

If you experience any of these symptoms for three weeks or more, you should visit your GP. You GP will usually carry out a simply examination known as a Digital Rectal Examination (DRE) and examine your abdomen. They may also check your blood to see if you have iron deficiency anaemia.