Bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer in the UK (after lung cancer). Yet – if caught early – it’s one of the most treatable. Which is why early detection is so important.
Yesterday, 40-year-old journalist Deborah James – aka BowelBabe on Instagram – shared the heartbreaking news that she's moving to hospice care at home.
Deborah, who was diagnosed in 2016, wrote: "Nobody knows how long I’ve got left but I’m not able to walk, I’m sleeping most of the days, and most things I took for granted are pipe dreams.
"I know we have left no stone unturned. But even with all the innovative cancer drugs in the world or some magic new breakthrough, my body just can’t continue anymore."
While over nine out of ten new cases are diagnosed in people over the age of 50, it can affect anyone of any age, as Radio 1 DJ Adele Roberts – aged just 42 – proves.
Last year the former I’m A Celebrity star announced she was fighting the killer disease, and urged her fans to be aware of the dangers.
“Please go and see someone if you’re worried about anything that’s not normal for you,” she wrote on her Instagram post. “Early detection saves lives. I don’t want this little horror taking any more of us.”
OK! spoke to Genevieve Edwards, Chief Executive of Bowel Cancer UK, who says, “Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK.
“It is more common in the over 50s, but it can affect people of all ages. Every 15 minutes someone is diagnosed with the disease – that’s over 42,000 people every year.
“More than 2,500 new cases are diagnosed annually in people under the age of 50. And 1 in 15 men and 1 in 18 women will be diagnosed with bowel cancer during their lifetime.
“But the number of people dying of bowel cancer has been falling since the 1970s. This may be due to earlier diagnosis and better treatment.”
FIVE SIGNS TO BE AWARE OF
The symptoms of bowel cancer can include:
1.) Bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your poo
There are several possible causes of bleeding from your bottom or blood in your bowel movements (poo). Bright red blood may come from swollen blood vessels (haemorrhoids or piles) in your back passage. It may also be caused by bowel cancer. Dark red or black blood may come from your bowel or stomach. Tell your doctor about any bleeding so they can find out what is causing it.
2.) A persistent and unexplained change in bowel habit
Tell your GP if you have noticed any persistent and unexplained changes in your bowel habit, especially if you also have bleeding from your back passage. You may have looser poo and you may need to poo more often than normal. Or you may feel as though you’re not going to the toilet often enough or you might feel as though you’re not fully emptying your bowels.
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3.) Unexplained weight loss
This is less common than some of the other symptoms. Speak to your GP if you have lost weight and you don’t know why. You may not feel like eating if you feel sick, bloated or if you just don’t feel hungry.
4.) Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
Bowel cancer may lead to a lack of iron in the body, which can cause anaemia (lack of red blood cells). If you have anaemia, you are likely to feel very tired and your skin may look pale.
5.) A pain or lump in your tummy
Sometimes, a tumour can block the bowel, causing sudden strong pains in the stomach area, bloating and feeling or being sick. This is called a bowel obstruction. You may also be unable to empty your bowels or pass wind. You may have pain or a lump in your stomach area (abdomen) or back passage. If you think you have a blocked bowel, see your GP straight away of if these symptoms don’t go away or if they’re affecting how you sleep or eat.
Please don’t panic though.
“Most people with these symptoms don’t have bowel cancer, " insists Genevieve. "Other health problems can cause similar symptoms. But if you experience bleeding from your bottom, blood in your stool, a change in bowel habits, unexplained weight loss, extreme tiredness or a pain or lump in your tummy then please do visit your GP.
“Sometimes, a tumour can block the bowel, causing sudden strong pains in the stomach area, bloating and feeling or being sick. This is called a bowel obstruction. You may also be unable to empty your bowels or pass wind. If you think you have a blocked bowel, see your GP straight away or go to a hospital’s accident and emergency department.”
For more information visit bowelcanceruk.org.uk
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