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16 SPECIALIST CLINICS Take control of your gut health


April is Colorectal/Bowel Cancer Awareness Month. Dr Lisa Das gives advice on how to detect and prevent bowel cancer


HEALTHCARE INNOVATIONS 25 MARCH 2018


O


ne in 20 of us will be aff ected by colorec- tal/bowel cancer (CRC). CRC is highly preventable, so why is the death rate still


so high? It’s the second biggest cancer killer in the UK, claiming a life every 30 minutes. Survival rates here in Britain are lower than many European countries. Most bowel cancers develop from precan-


cerous polyps. These are small growths aris- ing in the lining of the bowel, which grow at a very slow rate, which give us a unique oppor- tunity to detect them. Polyps are visible and mostly removable when the bowel is exam- ined with a camera (called a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy) by an expert. People in Britain are lucky to have an NHS


Bowel Cancer Screening Programme (BCSP) starting at age 60. Screening means testing people without any symptoms. Sadly, the up- take of this testing is still to reach optimal levels (currently only 50% of people take the test). If you receive this kit through the post, please discuss it with your GP.


The risk of bowel cancer increases around


the age of 50, and can be screened for via several tests. Any obviously concerning bow- el symptoms need the appropriate diagnostic evaluation. This is a deadly disease, which is highly preventable and potentially beatable — but only if caught early.


ARE THERE WARNING SIGNS? CRC symptoms don’t usually develop until the cancer is advanced, by which time it’s less likely to be curable. Early on there are few, if any, symptoms. The symptoms for bowel cancer are called ‘red fl ags’ and include blood in the stools or a change in the stools, such as them being looser or more frequent. Diffi culty emptying the bowels, low energy, unexpected weight loss and a lump in the abdomen are among the other symptoms to heed.


WHO CAN BE AFFECTED? CRC generally aff ects older people. However, there’s been an alarming increase noted in


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