What is Screening for Bowel/Gastrointestinal Cancer?
Bowel cancer (also known as colorectal cancer) is the fourth most common cancer in the UK with over 40,000 new cases diagnosed every year. In many cases, the disease can be preventable and patients are strongly advised to take part in the bowel cancer screening programme. Early investigation and detection means that many bowel cancers are treatable and curable.
Causes of Bowel Cancer
There are multiple risk factors associated with the risk of developing bowel cancer which include:
- Older age
- Bowel polyps
- Being overweight and obesity
- Current or past smoking
- Eating processed meat
- Family history and genetic risks
Symptoms associated with bowel cancer can present in varied ways and include:
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal mass (lump)
- Bowel mass (lump) (e.g. In the back passage)
- Change in bowel habit
- Rectal bleeding
- Weight loss
Screening from the age of 55 and over has been shown to detect bowel polyps and cancer and save lives. Screening investigations such as faecal occult blood tests (FOBT) are useful to check for subtle blood loss in the gastrointestinal tract which can indicate bowel polyps or less frequently bowel cancer. Lower gastrointestinal endoscopy can be performed to take biopsies to aid diagnosis as well as remove bowel polyps (and so prevent cancers developing).
Treatment options include medical therapy (such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy), endoscopic therapy and surgery.
If you want more information or are worried about bowel cancer or have a family history, you can book an urgent consultation with Dr Goel to discuss investigation and treatment options best suited to you.