DecemBEARD is a campaign from Beating Bowel Cancer. This campaign shows support for people with this disease by raising awareness of the disease and hence saving lives. Therefore, throughout December men everywhere have been growing beards in support of the campaign and collecting sponsorship to help beat the disease.
It’s not just men who get bowel cancer, of course. But men are notoriously unwilling to go to the doctor. This might be because they perceive it as “embarrassing.” So, the idea is to get them to join in and show their support by growing a beard and collecting sponsorship to support the awareness-raising campaign.
The Beating Bowel Cancer website is full of stories of men who have chosen to grow a DecemBEARD for a variety of reasons, all of them personal, many of them very poignant.
As part of our support for the campaign, we are reminding people about the signs, symptoms and treatments for bowel cancer.
It is worth remembering that 9 out of 10 people with bowel cancer survive if they are diagnosed early .People in their 50s and 60s may be offered free screening for the disease.
If you are experiencing any symptoms, book an appointment with your doctor.
According to the NHS, symptoms of Bowel cancer can be subtle and might not cause you severe illness at first. If you have any of the following symptoms for more than three weeks, it is a good idea to go to your doctor. Look out for:
- Bleeding from your bottom or blood in your poo
- A persistent change in your bowel habits, including going to the toilet more often
- Abdominal pain
- Unexplained weight loss
- Diarrhoea, constipation or a feeling of incomplete emptying of your bowel after going to the toilet
- A lump in your tummy
- Unexplained tiredness, dizziness or breathlessness
Lastly, visit a doctor if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms. It could be nothing but it’s better to be safe!
Bowel cancer is the general term for cancer that affects the large bowel (colon). It includes cancers that develop in the colon and rectum (the last part of the colon before the anus).
Both types of cancer tend to start as benign growths called polyps on the wall of the bowel. These look like cherries on stalks and are very common, particularly as we get older. A particular type of polyp, called an adenoma, can become cancerous.
If undetected, the cells in the polyp will multiply to form a tumour in the bowel, causing pain, bleeding and other symptoms. This tumour can grow into the wall of the bowel, allowing cancerous cells to enter other parts of the body; the process of spread is called metastasis.
Bowel cancers normally grow very slowly – over a period of up to 10 years and are treatable if caught early.
When you visit your GP, they will ask you the following:
- Your symptoms to examine your bottom and your tummy (this is to see if there are any lumps)
- To give a blood sample to check for iron deficiency anaemia
If your symptoms indicate that there is a possibility of bowel cancer, you will be referred to the hospital for a flexible sigmoidoscopy.
How is the bowel cancer examination done?
- This is examination is done through a long flexible tube with a tiny camera and light attached.
- It is inserted into your bottom and up into the bowel.
- The camera relays images to a monitor and it can also be used to take a biopsy – a small tissue sample for further analysis.
In some cases, you may need a more extensive examination of the colon. In this case, the doctor will examine your entire large bowel using a colonoscopy.
Once the type and stage of cancer have been determined, there are a number of different possibilities for treatment such as chemotherapy; radiotherapy and surgery.
A diagnosis of bowel cancer has major implications for the individual and their family. Hence, you will be offered support in managing not only the physical symptoms but also the emotional and practical impacts of the disease.
To find out more about DecemBEARD visit: https://www.decembeard.org
Working with a specialist that can promptly diagnose and monitor your symptoms, will give you the best chance to get back to feeling your best.