Bowel cancer is the UK’s second biggest cancer killer but it is treatable and curable if diagnosed early. The bowel is part of the digestive system. It is made up of the small bowel (small intestine) and large bowel (colon and rectum). Cancer is likely to develop in the large bowel, small bowel cancer is much less common.

The symptoms of bowel cancer can include:

  • Bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your bowel movements.
  • A persistent and unexplained change in your bowel habit.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason.
  • A pain or lump in your abdomen.

If you have one or more of these symptoms and you just don’t feel right, visit your GP.

It’s unknown what causes most bowel cancers, but there are factors that increase the risk of getting the disease:

  • Age.
  • A strong family history of bowel cancer.
  • A history of non-cancerous growths, known as polyps, in your bowel.
  • Longstanding inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
  • Type 2 diabetes.
  • An unhealthy lifestyle.

The type of treatment you receive for bowel cancer depends on factors such as when the cancer was diagnosed and if it has spread. Surgery is the most common treatment for bowel cancer but you may have surgery together with radiotherapy or chemotherapy to make the cancer easier to remove or if there is a risk of the cancer coming back.

Jen attended many of Penny Brohn’s courses after finding out she had terminal bowel cancer, Andy, her husband, tells us about how we helped Jen and her family stay positive and live well with cancer.

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