Bowel Cancer: Be Aware of the Common Symptoms

Bowel Cancer: Be Aware of the Common Symptoms:

Bowel cancer is one of the most common types of Cancer diagnosed in the UK.

It’s also called colorectal cancer, and it affects the large bowel, which is made up of the colon and rectum.

Most people affected by bowel cancer are over the age of 50, but it can affect younger people also.

Bowel Cancer UK reported last year that half the population were unaware of bowel cancer symptoms.

But being aware of the symptoms of bowel cancer is important, as it can help people get diagnosed early, allowing them to access treatment sooner.

What are the symptoms of bowel cancer?

The NHS says that more than 90% of people with bowel cancer have one of the following combinations of symptoms:

  • A persistent change in bowel habit—going to the toilet more and more often, with loose, diarrhea.
  • Blood in the stools without other symptoms of piles (haemorrhoids).
  • Tummy, abdominal pain, discomfort or bloating always brought on by eating.

The NHS says that constipation is rarely caused by a serious bowel condition.

In some cases, bowel cancer can cause bowel obstruction, which is when digestive waste can’t pass through the bowel. Symptoms of bowel obstruction include the following:

  • Intermittent, and occasionally severe, abdominal pain always brought on by eating.
  • Unintentional weight loss with persistent abdominal pain.
  • Constant swelling of the tummy with abdominal pain.
  • Being sick with constant abdominal swelling.

The NHS recommends seeing a GP if you have any of the symptoms of bowel cancer for three weeks or more. If you have any symptoms of bowel obstruction, you should go to A&E.

What are the risks and causes of bowel cancer?

The risk of developing bowel cancer depends on a number of factors, including age, genetics, and lifestyle.

Cancer Research UK says eating too much red and processed meat or eating too little fibre can increase your risk of bowel cancer. Being overweight or obese, smoking, and drinking alcohol are also risk factors.

Family history can also impact your risk of bowel cancer. Cancer Research UK advise that a person’s risk of bowel cancer is increased if they have a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, child) diagnosed with bowel cancer.

Some medical conditions, including bowel conditions, can also increase the risk of bowel cancer.

Most bowel cancers develop from pre-cancerous growths, called polyps. But not all polyps develop into cancer. If your doctor finds any polyps, they can be removed to prevent them becoming cancerous – but early treatment is essential – it can be life-saving!

Cancer cells may stay in the bowel or they might spread to other parts of the body, like the liver or lungs. Again early diagnosis and treatment can cure the problem – if left untreated, it can be too late and become terminal!

Facts and figures about bowel cancer – How common is bowel cancer?

  • Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK and the second biggest cancer killer.
  • Nearly 43,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year in the UK.
  • Around 268,000 people living in the UK today have been diagnosed with bowel cancer.
  • More than nine out of ten new cases (94%) are diagnosed in people over the age of 50, and nearly six out of ten cases (59%) are diagnosed in people aged 70 or over. But bowel cancer can affect anyone of any age. More than 2,600 new cases are diagnosed each year in people under the age of 50.
  • 1 in 15 men and 1 in 18 women will be diagnosed with bowel cancer during their lifetime.

How many people survive bowel cancer?

Bowel cancer is treatable and curable especially if diagnosed early.  Nearly everyone survives bowel cancer if diagnosed at the earliest stage. However, this drops significantly if it is left untreated and the disease develops. Early diagnosis really does save lives 

More than 16,500 people die from bowel cancer in the UK every year. It is the second biggest cancer killer in the UK.

Early diagnosis and treatment is vital.


  • What is Bowel Cancer Leaflet
  • Knowing The Symptoms of Bowel Cancer Poster

For more information, visit:

Footnote: Dame Deborah James:

Dame Deborah James – Inspirational podcast host and mother-of-two, yesterday died aged 40 after a battle with Bowel cancer. In 2016, she was diagnosed with incurable bowel cancer and went on to co-host the ‘You, Me and the Big C’ podcast on BBC Radio 5 about her struggles with her illness. The UK wide well known campaigner touched the nation and raised over £6 million for cancer research. Deborah passed away peacefully surrounded by her family. Deborah had recently completed her second book, titled “How To Live When You Could Be Dead” which is due to be published on August 18.The CWU wishes to add its name to those expressing their condolences and paying tribute to Deborah James.

Yours sincerely

Dave Joyce
National Health, Safety & Environment Officer

22LTB288 Bowel Cancer Be Aware of the Common Symptoms



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