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Bowel Cancer

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Bowel cancer is the second highest Cancer killer in Ireland. This is the second year that the Irish Cancer Society has launched April as Bowel Cancer Awareness Month because most of us don't know the symptoms, or are too embarrassed to go to the doctor.

Dr. John Ball

Prof O'Moran - Gastroenterologist - Irish Cancer Society

About Bowel Cancer (or known as colorectal cancer)

Cancer of the bowel is when cells in the bowel change and affect how the bowel works normally.
The main symptoms of bowel cancer are a change in your normal bowel motion, blood in your stools, pain or discomfort in your tummy, weight loss.
Bowel cancer can be diagnosed by tests such as a rectal exam, colonoscopy, barium enema, CT Colonography.
The main treatment for bowel cancer is surgery. Chemotherapy, radiotherapy or biological therapy may be used as well.

Dr. John Ball

What is bowel cancer ?

Bowel cancer happens when cells in the bowel change and start to grow quickly. They can form a tumour. A malignant tumour is also known as Cancer. If a malignant tumour is not treated, it will affect how the bowel works. Most bowel cancers occur in the large bowel. Bowel cancer is also known as Colorectal Cancer or cancer of the colon and rectum.

How common is bowel cancer?

Bowel cancer can occur in men and in women. In Ireland it is the second most common cancer. In 2005, there were 2184 people diagnosed with it. It is also the second most common cause of cancer death in Ireland.

Why is it the second highest cause of death by cancer?

Over half of patients diagnosed will have caught it in the later stages of the disease.


1. Early detection is key. However, a recent survey has shown that 36% of people don't know the symptoms of bowel cancer (Irish Cancer Society) and 25% don't know the risk factors.

2. People can be embarrassed discussing bowel issues and movements with the doctor, which puts them off being tested.

Are these not conditions that you would see regularly?

These symptoms can also be due to complaints other than bowel cancer. But do get them checked out by your doctor, especially if they go on for more than 4 to 6 weeks.

Bowel Cancer Risk Factors

. Age
. Having a family history of bowel cancer
. Having a family history of polyps (abnormal growths of tissue in the lining of the bowel)
. Having a diet which is high in fat and low in fruit, vegetables and fibre
. Lack of physical activity
. Obesity
. Alcohol
. Smoking

How is bowel cancer diagnosed?

First visit your family doctor (GP) if you are worried about any symptoms. If your doctor has concerns about you, he/she will refer you to a hospital. There you will see a specialist who may arrange more tests. You may need some of the following tests:

. Rectal exam
. Stool sample to check for hidden blood
. Special tests to look inside your bowel

Source: Irish Cancer Society

Irish Cancer Society Helpline 1 800 200 700