Preventing Bowel Cancer

8 Apr 2022 Anne Marie Fogarty

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Bowel cancer

Part three of our six-part Healthy Lifestyle Series examines how we can live longer, healthier lives and avoid illnesses and diseases such as cancer. One of the cancers that we can reduce our risk of getting is bowel cancer – if we act quickly and live a healthy life, bowel cancer survival rates are higher than ever across the UK.


Cancer is a disease that nobody ever wants to face, yet sadly, statistics show that most people out there will be affected by cancer at some point in their lives. 1 in 2 people are predicted to be diagnosed with some form of cancer in their lifetime, which is why we need to act now.

Here in the UK, we’re truly blessed with our NHS, which provides free healthcare for all, rather than those with the largest bank accounts. Furthermore, charitable donations also make a huge difference when it comes to cancer care, treatment, and prevention.

As awful as cancer is, the promising news is that cancer survival rates are up for the first time ever, which means that more people are surviving cancer and making a complete recovery than ever before.

While there are many different types of cancer, one of the most common, treatable, and preventable, for that matter, is bowel cancer, which is what we’re going to focus on today.


Here’s a look at everything you need to know about bowel cancer.


What is bowel cancer?

Bowel cancer is a form of cancer that affects the colon and the rectum.

Also known as colorectal cancer, this type of cancer forms when abnormal cells suddenly begin to divide and multiply in the bowels of an individual. These cells can spread rapidly and may find themselves growing into the surrounding tissue of the bowels and even spreading to other organs in the body.

In the UK, bowel cancer is one of the more common forms of cancer, with most patients being diagnosed aged 60 and over. Despite this, however, it is still possible for younger individuals to be diagnosed with bowel cancer.

Of people diagnosed, around 80 out of 100 will go on to survive for one year or longer after being diagnosed. 60 out of 100 will survive for five years or longer, and 55 out of 100 will go on to survive for ten years or longer.

Bowel cancer is one of the more treatable cancers, though it is essential to act fast and know the symptoms.


What are the symptoms of bowel cancer?

As mentioned, bowel cancer survival rates are very promising, and the faster you act, the more likely you will be to make a full recovery.

Some common symptoms of bowel cancer include:

  • Persistent changes in bowel habits
  • Blood in your stool
  • Persistent lower abdominal stomach pain and cramps
  • Unexplained or unintentional weight loss

While the above are symptoms of bowel cancer, the vast majority of people with these symptoms will have them as a result of something far less serious than cancer.

Abdominal pain, for example, could be caused by a food allergy or intolerance, whereas blood in the stool could be caused by haemorrhoids. However, if you do have any of the above symptoms, you should still seek out medical advice.


How to reduce your risk of bowel cancer

While there are no guarantees of preventing cancer completely, there are certain things we can do to reduce our risk of bowel cancer, and these include the following:


Cut back on processed meat and red meat

While some red meat has been found to be beneficial because it contains B vitamins, along with zinc and iron, eating too much red meat can increase your risk of bowel cancer. Experts recommend no more than three servings of red meat each week.

As far as processed meat goes, ideally, you should cut that out of your diet entirely as it offers very little in terms of nutrition.

Due to the fats found in processed meat, sodium, and other artificial ingredients and preservatives, try to cut way back on foods such as sausages, bacon, salami, pepperoni, reformed ham, etc.


Consume more fibre

Dietary fibre is very good for digestive health at the best of times, especially when it comes to the prevention of certain forms of cancer.

Aim to consume foods such as wholewheat bread, whole grains, brown rice, wholewheat pasta, oats, chickpeas, lentils, and beans.


Get screened

Here in the UK, if you are GP registered and are aged 60 – 74, you will be sent a free bowel cancer screening test kit in the post. You simply do the test as instructed, send back your sample, and the NHS will then contact you with your results.

These tests are just one of the many prime examples of why the NHS in this country should be protected at all costs, as they have saved countless lives.


Lead a healthy lifestyle

When it comes to any form of cancer, leading a healthy lifestyle can make all of the difference in terms of prevention.

Don’t smoke, don’t drink alcohol excessively, don’t use drugs, exercise regularly, drink more water, eat healthy foods, and aim to get enough sleep each night and these will all improve your health and reduce your risk of bowel cancer and various other types of cancer.


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