Bowel Cancer Awareness Month
April is bowel cancer awareness month in the UK. It is the time when people get on their bikes, run marathons or hold coffee morning for charities like Bowel Cancer UK to fund research and help people affected by the disease.
It’s also a time for us to think about our lifestyles and make choices to live more healthily – and so avoid many of the risk factors of bowel cancer – or to visit your doctor to get screened for bowel cancer.
Bowel cancer, which is a general term for cancer that begins in the large bowel, is the third most common type of cancer. It is the second most common among women after breast cancer and the third most common for men after prostate and lung cancer. In 2009 41,142 cases of bowel cancer were registered in the UK (all figures in this article from NHS).
Early diagnosis makes all the difference
Bowel cancer can be treated. Usually this would be a combination of surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, depending on how far advanced the disease was before treatment began. If it is caught and treated early enough the survival rate after 5 years is around 90%. In many cases a complete cure is usually possible. However, if the disease is diagnosed in its latter stages then survival after 5 years is as low as 6%, with a complete cure unlikely. Basically, catch it early enough and you have a good chance, leave it too long and things will be very serious. It is this that makes Bowel Cancer Awareness Month all the more relevant – and makes screening and early diagnosis essential parts of fighting the disease.
If you get offered screening, take it
72% of people diagnosed with bowel cancer are over 65. Currently, everyone between the ages of 60 and 69 is offered bowel cancer screening every two years on the NHS. The programme is being extended in England to include everyone from 70 to 75 and plans are underway to introduce screening for everyone at 55. So if you get offered screening, take it. You might not like the process of giving a sample or having a flexible sigmoidoscopy (camera examination) but it could save your life. And if you are under 55 and have any suspicion that you may be unwell, go and see your doctor as soon as you can. The symptoms of bowel cancer can be seen on the NHS website here.
Reducing the risk
There are things that you can do to reduce the risk of bowel cancer. These include eating a high fibre diet that is low in unsaturated fats, keeping a healthy weight, being active and cutting out smoking and moderating alcohol intake. Also, a diet high in red meat will put you more at risk, as will having family members with related conditions or having bowel conditions such as IBS.
Get involved with Bowel Cancer Awareness Month
If you want to do something to help this April you can get hold of awareness materials to display in your office or shop or club by calling the Bowel Cancer UK Health Promotion team on 020 7940 1760. Alternatively you could follow Bowel Cancer UK on Twitter or Facebook and retweet or share their messages.
Travel with bowel cancer
Fortunately many people who suffer from bowel cancer make a complete recovery, so it’s not a life sentence, although for many, living with the after effects of bowel surgery can be difficult. However, in most cases where there are no serious complications or secondary cancers, people are well enough to carry on and live normal lives. This includes travelling.
As medical travel insurance specialists we are always happy to hear from people who have undergone successful treatment for bowel cancer and are living with its consequences. The process for getting a quote is the same as it would be for any person: follow our easy to use online screening or call us on 0845 90 80 161 between 09:00 and 17:30 Monday to Friday and between 09:00 and 16:00 on Saturdays. We’ll be happy to talk to you about your illness and, if we can, give you a quote right there and then.