April is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month in the UK.
Awareness can help save not only your own life but also the life of your family and friends.
In this post I’d like to make a few more people aware of the risk factors involved, and how you can do your very best to avoid Bowel Cancer (or Colon Cancer).
What is Bowel Cancer?
Bowel Cancer, sometimes known as colorectal cancer, can occur when abnormal cells start to multiply out of control. It is not uncommon in terms of types of cancer and usually develops is the sigmoid part of the colon or the rectum.
The cancer itself normally develops from a small growth known as a polyp which forms in the lining of the colon or rectum and sometimes from a cell within the colon or rectum lining that turns cancerous. Polyps usually begin life as non-cancerous with any cancer developing after a number of years.
Cancer cells multiply and begin to form a tumour. The tumour then spreads deeper into the colon or rectum walls. Diagnosed at an early stage, there is a much higher chance of cure.
Bowel cancer is more common in those aged 50 and over, but by no means restricted to that age group.
The Symptoms of Bowel Cancer
Some common warning signs, which should be checked by a GP at an early stage, are:
- losing weight for no apparent reason
- bleeding from the rectum
- blood in faeces
- unexplained tiredness
- a lump and/or pain in the stomach
- diarrhoea symptoms lasting 3 weeks or more
It’s important to note these are only potential symptoms, and having one or more does not mean you have bowel cancer. If in doubt, get it checked out!
Reducing Your Risk
Fortunately, there are several ways to reduce the risk of developing bowel cancer that are nutrition and lifestyle related. My advice would be:
- aim to consume 25g or more of fibre each day
- cut down on processed foods, sugary foods and ready meals
- limit your intake of alcohol
- stop smoking
- eat a diet rich in unprocessed foods that has plenty fruit and vegetables
- drink at least 1.5 litres of hydrating fluids each day
- exercise regularly
- eat red meat in moderation
To find out more, or to get involved in raising awareness of bowel cancer, visit the Bowel Cancer UK web site.