Frequently Asked Questions About Bowel Cancer

We understand patients can be nervous about their first GI consultation. Some Bowel Cancer related FAQs are listed here but if you can not find the answer to your query please get in touch and we will be happy to help.

Is colon cancer and bowel cancer the same?

Yes, the bowel and colon are both names for the large intestine. Bowel cancer, colon cancer and colorectal and rectal cancer are essentially all cancers of the large intestine, although the name may vary depending on where the cancer started.

What are bowel polyps?

Bowel polyps are small, bony growths that attach to the lining of the colon. Sometimes they are harmless, but they can also be a precursor for cancer so it is important to check any related symptoms or get screened for bowel polyps once you reach a certain age, or fall into a higher risk category.

Many bowel polyps don’t create any symptoms, although some larger polyps may cause rectal bleeding when passing stools.

A colonoscopy exam can assess for bowel polyps and the endoscope used in the procedure can snip off polyps for biopsy, or to prevent them from turning cancerous in the future

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    What are colon cancer symptoms in men?

    Colon cancer is more common for men, with a 7% lifetime risk, compared to 5% for a woman, in the UK. Symptoms for both men and women include rectal bleeding, abdominal pain and a change in bowel movements, with frequent and persistent diarrhoea.

    If a family member has a history of colon cancer or bowel polyps then the risk can be increased.

    What is the colon cancer survival rate?

    It is important to remember that survival rates are based on averages and it largely depends on the stage of development that the cancer is detected. There is almost a 100% chance of recovery when colon cancer is diagnosed in Stage 1, however, this falls to around 40% when the cancer is diagnosed and treated in Stage 4. Early diagnosis is the key to improving your chances of survival.

    What are the bowel cancer treatment options?

    The options relating to bowel cancer treatment vary depending on how developed the disease is when diagnosed. Stage 1 treatment often involves just removing the cancerous bowel polyps from the lining of the colon. It is a simple procedure with low risk and minimal side effects. Treatment for Stage 4 bowel cancer may involve surgery, to remove the cancerous part of the colon, or the entire colon. This has significant life-changing effects, however it is sometimes the most successful treatment for this stage of cancer development.

    Treatment options will be outlined and discussed in full with your doctor, and usually other options are explored before the surgery takes place.

    Does a family history of bowel cancer increase my risk too?

    If you have a family member diagnosed under the age of 60 then your risk is increased. However, most cases of bowel cancer occur in people with no family history.

    Is colon cancer preventable?

    It isn’t possible to completely prevent getting bowel cancer, however you can lower your risk by eating a balanced diet, high in fibre and low in red and processed meats, reducing your alcohol intake and giving up smoking. Maintaining a healthy weight through exercise is also thought to reduce risk.

    I have blood in my poo – do I have colon cancer?

    Blood when going toilet is one symptom of bowel cancer, however there are many other conditions that cause rectal bleeding. It is important to get diagnosed by a specialist doctor to find out what is the true cause of your symptoms so you can seek the most relevant treatment.

    How is bowel cancer diagnosed?

    Bowel cancer can be diagnosed by a number of methods.

    1. A stool sample may give an indication of blood or abnormal DNA
    2. A sigmoidoscopy assesses the lower part of the colon
    3. A colonoscopy, which is the most thorough examination, assesses the entire colon for cancer
    4. A CT colonoscopy, is a non-invasive version of the colonoscopy used in some cases

    Your doctor will discuss which is the most appropriate test for your symptoms.

    Can I have a bowel cancer-screening test on the NHS?

    Yes, we look after many overseas patients

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    Can the NHS pay for my treatment?

    The NHS currently provides a free bowel cancer screening test if you are over 60. It is typically a stool test and if there are any abnormalities then further testing will be required. There is an increased risk of bowel cancer after age 45 so a private screening test is necessary for anyone wanting to take preventative action against the risk of bowel cancer, through early detection.


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