- a family history of bowel cancer
- one of two inherited bowel conditions that increase your risk - familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), also known as Lynch syndrome
- a long-term bowel condition, such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis
- a diet that is low in fibre and fruit and vegetables and high in red and processed meats
- an inactive lifestyle, or are obese
Bowel cancer is often painless in the early stages, but there are symptoms, including:
- blood in your faeces, which may be mixed into your faeces or appear as flecks on the surface, or you may see it in the toilet or on toilet paper - get into the habit of looking into the toilet before flushing
- persistent changes in your bowel habit for several weeks - especially going to the toilet more often or having diarrhoea
- weight loss without any obvious reason and/or loss of appetite
- tiredness or breathlessness for no apparent reason - this may be caused by the small amount of blood loss from your bowel, resulting in anaemia (when there are too few red blood cells or not enough haemoglobin in your blood)
- pain, or a lump or swelling in your abdomen (tummy)
These symptoms aren't always due to bowel cancer. However the symptoms shouldn't be ignored so if you have them, see your doctor. If bowel cancer is caught early there is a better chance of curing it.
- A colonoscopy, which is a test that allows a doctor to look inside your large bowel. The test is done using a narrow, flexible, tube-like telescopic camera called a colonoscope.
- A sigmoidoscopy, which is a procedure used to look inside your rectum and the lower part of your bowel.
- A barium enema, which involves placing a fluid containing barium (a substance which shows up on X-rays) into your bowel via your rectum. X-ray images of your abdomen then show the inside of your bowel more clearly.
- an ultrasound scan of your abdomen to see if the cancer has spread
- a CT scan to show the position of the tumour
- an MRI scan to show two- and three-dimensional pictures of your bowel
- a chest X-ray to check the health of your heart and lungs
- blood tests to assess your general health
- are over 50 years old
- have a close relative who has had bowel cancer
- have FAP, HNPCC, or other diseases of the bowel lining such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease
- Try to do 150 minutes (two and a half hours) of moderate exercise over a week in bouts of 10 minutes or more. You can do this by carrying out 30 minutes on at least five days each week. Alternatively, you can do 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity.
- Eat five or more portions of fruit and vegetables every day.
- Cut down on the amount of processed and red meat you eat.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Eat foods high in fibre such as wholegrain bread, cereals and pasta.
- If you smoke, quit.
This information was published by Bupa Group's Health Content Team and has been reviewed by appropriate medical or clinical professionals. To the best of their knowledge the information is current and based on reputable sources of medical evidence, however Bupa (Asia) Limited makes no representation or warranty as to the completeness or accuracy of the Content.
The information on this page, and any information on third party websites referred to on this page, is provided as a guide only. It should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional medical advice, nor is it intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. Bupa (Asia) Limited is not liable for any loss or damage you suffer arising out of the use of, or reliance on, the information.
Third party websites are not owned or controlled by Bupa and any individual may be able to access and post messages on them. Bupa is not responsible for the content or availability of these third party websites. Last updated August 2017.
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