About bowel cancer
Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK and is the second most common cause of cancer death. More than 44 people die from the disease every day in the UK; that’s equivalent to four entire football teams.
1 in 14 men and 1 in 19 women in the UK will develop bowel cancer at some point in their lifetime but we’re making great progress at tackling the disease. Since the Bobby Moore Fund was established in 1993, bowel cancer mortality rates have fallen by 29%.
A largely preventable disease
More than half of bowel cancer cases could be prevented by changes to lifestyle. You can reduce the risk of the disease by eating less red and processed meat, keeping a healthy body weight, eating a high fibre diet, cutting down on alcohol, being a non-smoker and being active.
It's crucial to spot bowel cancer early
The great news is that if bowel cancer is detected at the earliest stage, more than nine out of ten patients will survive the disease for more than five years.
If you notice any of the following changes and they last longer than four to six weeks, you should report them to your GP. These symptoms are unlikely to be caused by cancer, but it is better to play safe.
- Bleeding from the bottom without any obvious reason or blood in your stools
- A persistent change in bowel habit to looser or more frequent bowel motions
- Tummy pain, especially if severe
- A lump in your tummy
It is important to know what is normal for your body and to seek advice from your GP if you notice anything unusual.
Visit the spot cancer early website to watch our video about bowel cancer signs and symptoms.
Screening saves lives
When bowel cancer is caught early, treatment is simpler and more effective. Bowel screening is a way of doing just this, by helping doctors find bowel cancer at an early stage before any symptoms develop, or sometimes by preventing cancer from developing in the first place.
Traces of blood in the stools can be a sign of bowel cancer, so by finding them, screening can help pick up the disease at an early stage when it’s easier to treat. There is a national bowel screening programme for older men and women, which currently uses Faecal Occult Blood Testing (FOBT). FOBT looks for hidden traces of blood in your stools. This test can be done at home using a testing kit received through the post.
Find out more about bowel cancer screening
Questions about bowel cancer?
Cancer Research UK provides clear and easy to understand information for people affected by cancer. Visit our CancerHelp UK website for reliable, up-to-date information on cancer, its treatment and the latest research.
Call Cancer Research UK's team of specialist cancer information nurses between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday on 0808 800 4040.
Visit our Cancer Chat forum and share your information and experiences with others affected by cancer.