16,000 people die of bowel cancer a year; this really can be lowered by a huge amount if people get it diagnosed early.
Most people, if they have something worrying them in the nether regions delay going to see their GP because they are embarrassed. For some reason people seem to think that their friends and family will be interested in the size, amount and frequency of their bowel habits, someone once even wanted to show me a photo of one that they were particularly proud of (why?!!!!) but, ask them to talk to their Doctor if they are worried and they suddenly become shy. Your GP will see so many body parts that unless yours is anatomically comically different to every other human being on the planet he/she is not going to fall about laughing as soon as you drop your drawers! Your bum is going to be as normal to their working day as a PC is to an IT specialist- it’s just part of their job, each to their own….
Anyway, have a look at the signs and symptoms below.
Bleeding from your bum and/or in your poo -Most of us will have this time to time; it doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer. You may have been constipated and you’ve had an uncomfortable time in the loo which can result in a small tear (both meanings of the English language word tear works here!) which can lead to bleeding. Or it could be a touch of the ol’ Farmer Giles AKA haemorrhoids which can cause massive pain and bleeding.
Change in bowel habits lasting more than three weeks- especially if it’s loose or runny poo. Obviously, you will have the odd upset tummy but if it’s constant for three weeks you need to see your GP.
Unexplained weight loss- If you’ve not consciously trying to lose weight and you haven’t increased your activity levels but you’re noticeably losing weight it’s best to get yourself checked out.
Extreme tiredness- If your daily routine hasn’t changed but you are feeling really tired for no reason, have a chat with your GP.
Pain or lump in your tummy- If it’s not going away, book with your GP.
Remember, most of these symptoms will not mean you have bowel cancer but get yourself checked out to put your mind at rest.
Decreasing the risk of developing bowel cancer
Avoid processed food- Bacon, ham, sausages, burgers, salami. I’m not saying don’t eat any of these but only have them occasionally, not every day.
Limit red meat- Red meat sits in your gut from between 24-72 hours. It does has lots of health benefits but because it takes so long to digest it’s best to limit it to an 80g portion, about the size of a deck of cards if you are eating it every day.
Eat lots of fibre- There are two types of fibre, insoluble and soluble. Insoluble helps to keep the bowel healthy and avoids us being constipated by keeping the digestive system moving. Wheat and spelt, brown rice, raisins, root veg skins, seeds and nuts are all good sources of insoluble fibre.
Oats, berries, apples, celery, carrots, cucumber, beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas are soluble foods which help promote healthy gut bacteria and lower cholesterol by slowing down digestion.
It’s best to introduce fibre gradually to your diet. It’s not a good idea to go from zero fibre to eating nothing else but! Your stomach and your friends won’t thank you for it as a product of too much fibre is wind! You may also bloat and feel very uncomfortable.
Drink lots of water- Aim for 6-8 glasses a day. Fibre attracts water to help to bulk it up so the digestive system keeps regular.
Keep body weight to a healthy level- There is a link with an increase in bowel cancer in people who are overweight or obese.
Exercise!- Great way to get the digestive system moving!
Limit alcohol and stop smoking- smokers are more likely to develop polyps which are growths in the bowel which if left undetected over time could turn into cancer.
Take part in a bowel cancer screening when invited- if you are aged 60-74 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland or 50 – 74 in Scotland you will be invited to have a screening test. A lucky pathologist somewhere will have a rummage through your poo sample and see if there is any detectable blood.
Know what’s normal for you- I know someone who only does a poo once a week and another person who goes four or five times a day! (How do I know this information!!!) You know what’s right for you and will soon know when something is wrong.
So, get to know your bowel habits (do me a favour, don’t tell me!) eat a healthy diet, get plenty of exercise, drink lots of water and give your bum the best chance of staying healthy!Back to Blog