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Bowel cancer – spotting the signs can save your life

20 April 2015

It is the UK’s second biggest cancer killer claiming a life every 30 minutes – yet bowel cancer spotted early can be successfully treated in more than 90% of cases.

During Bowel Cancer Awareness Month this April, Dr Subramaniam Ramakrishnan at The Wilmslow Hospital, 52 Alderley Road is urging people to recognise the symptoms so they are able to act quickly if they spot anything out of the ordinary.

Dr Ramakrishnan, a Consultant Gastroenterologist at The Wilmslow Hospital, stressed: “Early treatment could mean the difference between life and death; be aware of what is normal for you, so that you recognise any changes.

“If you know your body then you can act quickly if something out of the ordinary happens. A change in your bowel habits that lasts for three weeks or more, blood in your faeces or bleeding are all warning signs and you should visit your GP as early as possible.”

Other tell-tale signs include unexplained weight loss, feeling tired without reason or anaemia, stomach pains or a lump in the stomach region. Dr Ramakrishnan added: “There is no clear reason why some people develop bowel cancer while others do not but you can reduce your personal risk of developing cancer by making some simple lifestyle choices.”

If there are any family members who have had bowel polyps or have been treated for bowel cancer you could be at risk of cancer too. Families where more than three members have been diagnosed with bowel cancer are considered to be high risk family. In this situation, it is a good idea for other members of this family to be screened for polyps or silent cancer.

Below are some simple changes that can make a difference:

Stop smoking: Long-term smokers are more likely than non-smokers to develop bowel cancer. Watch your weight: After not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight is the most important thing you can do for cancer prevention.

Cut down on alcohol: Bowel cancer has been linked to a heavy intake of alcohol. The more you cut down, the more you reduce your risk.

Exercise regularly: Being physically active can help you maintain a healthy wait and also enables food to move through your digestive system more quickly.

Eat healthily: Make sure you eat plenty of dietary fibre from whole grains, seeds, fruit and vegetables. This helps to move waste quickly through your digestive system. Also drink plenty of water.

Know your family history of cancers, polyps of the bowel: Some families are prone to develop cancers more frequently and at a much younger age than others as there are genetic factors that increase the risk. It is therefore a good idea to talk about this and have this information to hand.

Look for consistency and type of stools as well as blood in stools: It is surprising how many of us do not watch what we pass as there is still a stigma attached to reporting bowel related problems.

“Every year, around 16,000 people die of bowel cancer in the UK. Bowel Cancer Awareness Month is a good time to advise people on all the positive things that they can do to improve their health and let them know that early detection really does make a massive difference to the success of treatment,” Dr Ramakrishnan concluded.

Dr Subramaniam Ramakrishnan is a Consultant Gastroenterologist at The Wilmslow Hospital, 52 Alderley Road. The Wilmslow Hospital provides patients with access to specialist consultants and quick and accurate screening and diagnosis. Its sister hospital, The Christie Clinic, which is the private arm of The Christie NHS Hospital, has an experienced multi-disciplinary team of leading consultants and specialist nurses, and offers the latest in cancer treatment.

For further information about screening and treatments for bowel cancer please call 0161 545 036.

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