Bowel cancer is very treatable. The earlier it’s diagnosed, the easier it is to treat. People whose cancer is diagnosed at an early stage have a much higher chance of successful treatment. If you have any symptoms, don’t be embarrassed and don’t ignore them.
Doctors are used to seeing lots of people with bowel problems.
Currently, if you are aged 60 to 74 you will be sent a FIT home screening kit. Please remember to do the test and return it. For more information about bowel screening in England, call the helpline on 0800 707 6060, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.
Symptoms of bowel cancer can include:
- 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
- A pain or lump in your tummy
You can reduce your risk of bowel cancer by taking some simple steps to improve your diet and increase your physical activity.
- Avoid processed meat and limit red meat
- There is good evidence that dairy products decrease the risk of bowel cancer. This includes milk and cheese
- Eat plenty of fibre from wholegrains, pulses, veg and fruit
- Be a healthy body weight
- Try to do at least 30 minutes of physical activity such as brisk walking, five times a week
- Remember to have at least two alcohol free days a week. This recommendation is for men and women
- Bowel cancer risk increases with the number of cigarettes smoked per day
- Try to give up smoking. Your GP can help with advice on how to cut down and stop
Try and maintain a healthy body weight. Cut down on calories and look for options that are higher in fibre, and lower in fat, salt, and sugar. Food labels can tell you about how healthy food is. Caution with your portions! It’s not just what you eat and drink, how much is important too. Don’t heap food on your plate and think twice before having seconds. Keeping to a meal routine will help. Eating at roughly the same time each day can help you avoid unplanned meals and snacks. Don’t forget your 5 a day. Having fresh, frozen, or tinned fruit or veg at every meal makes it easier to get at least 5 a day. One of the most important ways to encourage your children to lead a healthy lifestyle is to set a good example yourself. Try to get the whole family involved in healthy living.
Keep active! If you don’t do much physical activity, try starting with 10 minutes and increase the time gradually. Get up on your feet as sitting less has lots of benefits. You could stand on the bus or train, during TV adverts, or when you’re on the phone. Try to walk 10,000 steps a day. It might sound like a lot but start with small increases and you’ll soon increase your steps. Taking the stairs and walking to the shop can all add up.
We know that smokers are more likely to develop polyps (non-cancerous growths in the bowel) which could turn into cancer if not discovered. If you want to give up smoking, your GP can help, advise, and refer you to an NHS Stop Smoking service. These services offer the best support for people who want to give up smoking.
For cancer prevention, it’s best not to drink alcohol at all. If you do drink alcohol, keep it as low as possible with an upper limit of no more than 14 units a week and try to spread it out over the week. As a rough guide a bottle of wine is equal to 10 units, while a pint of strong beer is 3 units. But it does depend on the alcohol strength.
There is good evidence that dairy products decrease the risk of bowel cancer. This includes milk and cheese. Dairy products contain proteins and vitamins that are important for your health. This includes calcium which is important for strong bones. And high calcium content could be one-way dairy products decrease bowel cancer risk. Dairy alternatives (particularly soya products), can also contain these important proteins and vitamins. Try to choose products with added with added calcium and B12.