Bowel cancer screening
Bowel cancer is the 2nd most common cause of cancer death in the UK with 32 – 34,000 new cases diagnosed and 19,000 deaths each year. 70% of these cancers are easy to diagnose.
Many people are now aware that the high number of deaths is unnecessary and research has shown that screening can reduce risk factors and improve survival through the identification and successful removal of high risk polyps and early cancers.
It is well established that the earlier you present, the better your chance of identifying early disease and thus beat one of the most leading causes of cancer death.
How common is bowel cancer?
Age at diagnosis incidence:
- Under 50 – 1 in 25,000
- 50 – 69 – 1 in 1000
- Over 70 – 1 in 333
Who is considered at risk?
Anyone who fits any of the following:
- Rectal bleeding with diarrhoea (loose stools for more than 6 weeks)
- Rectal bleeding without any symptoms in patients older than 45 years
- Alteration in bowel habit (diarrhoea or worsening constipation) for more than 6 weeks
- Unexplained anaemia (low blood count)
- Men with a haemoglobin (Hb) lower than 11
- Females with a haemoglobin (Hb) lower than 10
- If a close family member has been diagnosed with bowel cancer
- Anyone over the age of 55 years
What does the screening process involve?
There is an initial consultation with a Consultant Coloproctologist (bowel cancer specialist) followed by a physical examination.
Following your initial consultation, your specialist will decide which type of investigation is most appropriate for you. This will either be a telescope test of the bowel or investigation by X-ray (CT Scan). Whichever investigation you are recommended, you will be given a strong laxative prior to the test in order to clear your bowels.
Samples may be taken and sent for analysis.
The whole procedure is routinely very well tolerated and is undertaken as an extended outpatient / day stay depending on the individual.
A follow-up consultation will be arranged to discuss the results from the investigation.
Please be reassured that in the majority of cases, the results will be negative and patients will require no further treatment.