Bowel cancer

April is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month. Find out why it is so important for 60-74 year olds to take the screening test.

About the campaign

It’s Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, hear from our Clinical Lead for Cancer and local GP Andy Robinson about the work we have been doing in Leeds South and East to increase the uptake of the bowel cancer screening test.

NHS Leeds South and East Clinical Commissioning Group, along with Leeds City Council, have launched a campaign to raise awareness of bowel cancer and how important it is for people to complete and return their bowel cancer screening kit. In Leeds the testing kit is posted out to people aged between 60 and 74. Completing and returning your testing kit could save your life as it gives us the chance to detect the disease in its early stages.

Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK;

However, if diagnosed at the earliest stage, research suggests over 90% of bowel cancer patients will survive the disease for more than five years. This is why it is important that you or your loved ones complete and return the testing kits – it really could be a lifesaver.

Signs and Symptoms

The early signs of bowel cancer can vary and are not very clear. However, they can include:

  • a change of bowel habit (diarrhoea or constipation) for more than two weeks
  • bleeding from the back passage
  • lasting abdominal pain/unusual lump
  • loss of weight or appetite
  • a feeling of not having emptied your bowel properly after a bowel motion.

Bowel problems are very common, so it is most likely that these symptoms do not mean you have cancer. If you have any of the above symptoms; get them checked out and don’t be afraid or embarrassed to speak to your GP.

Things that increase your risk of getting bowel cancer include:

  • Age – around 72% of people diagnosed with bowel cancer are over 65
  • Diet – a diet high in fibre and low in saturated fat could reduce your bowel cancer risk, a diet high in red or processed meats can increase your risk
  • Healthy weight – leaner people are less likely to develop bowel cancer than obese people
  • Exercise – being inactive increases the risk of getting bowel cancer
  • Alcohol and smoking – high alcohol intake and smoking may increase your chances of getting bowel cancer
  • Family history and inherited conditions – having a close relative with bowel cancer puts you at much greater risk of developing the disease
  • Related conditions – having certain bowel conditions can put you more at risk of getting bowel cancer

Bowel problems are very common, so it is most likely that these symptoms do not mean you have cancer.
How do I find out more?
If you have any other questions, call the FREE NHS helpline on 08007076060 or visit NHS Choices for further information.
Alternatively, please speak to your local GP or pharmacist.

Useful links

Bowel Cancer screening poster
Bowel cancer screening facts in other languages

Other formats
Large print

Updated: 11/04/17