Bowel Cancer: The Facts

Advice from The London General Practice on how to spot the signs of bowel cancer and preventative measures you can take to minimise risk.

Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK and the second biggest cancer killer. Over 42,000 people are diagnosed every year in the UK and can affect anyone of any age. More than nine out of ten are over the age of 50, and nearly six out of ten aged 70+.

However, more than 2,500 new cases are diagnosed each year in people under the age of 50. 1 in 15 men and 1 in 18 women will be diagnosed with bowel cancer during their lifetime.

Bowel cancer is treatable and curable if diagnosed at the earliest stage but drops significantly as the disease develops. More than 16,000 people die from bowel cancer in the UK every year.

Symptoms include:

• Bleeding from the back passage and/or blood in your stool
• Persistent, unexplained change in bowel habit
• A need to pass stool, even after opening your bowels.
• Unexplained weight loss.
• Extreme tiredness for no reason.
• A pain or lump in your abdomen.

Most people with these symptoms don’t have bowel cancer, but if you are concerned, please speak to your GP.


• Being over 50
• Strong family history of bowel cancer. All family members should tell their GP if they have one first-degree relative diagnosed with bowel cancer before the age of 50, or two or more relatives diagnosed at any age, or one or more relatives with a known genetic condition linked to bowel cancer
• History of non-cancerous growths (polyps) in your bowel
• Longstanding inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
• Type 2 diabetes

Lifestyle factors:

• Avoid processed meat and limit red meat consumption.
• Eat plenty of fibre from whole grains, pulses, veg and fruit.
• Maintain a healthy body weight
• Increase physical activity
• Reduce alcohol consumption: about 6% in the UK are linked to alcohol
• Stop smoking: An estimated 7% of bowel cancer cases in the UK are linked to tobacco smoking


Screening tests healthy people to see if they show early signs of cancer, or non-cancerous growths (polyps) that may develop into cancer in the future. Removing these can reduce your risk of getting bowel cancer.

At the London General Practice they guide their patients to access screening techniques to detect bowel cancers early.

• Faecal immunochemical test (FIT) or Faecal occult blood test (FOBT). Both look for tiny traces of blood in a stool sample.
• CT Colonoscopy, or virtual colonoscopy . This is when your bowel is imaged using a CT scanner
• Bowel scope screening. This test involves an endoscopist using a flexible tube called a colonoscope with a light and a camera to examine the bowel and take samples where needed.


Would depend on each individual case, but may comprise surgery with chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Even cases of advanced bowel cancer, where cancer cells may have spread beyond the bowel, can be treated through a variety of novel techniques.


The London General Practice
114a Harley Street,
London W1G 7JL

Tel: 0207 935 1000

Private GP services:

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