Health: Know tell-tale signs of bowel cancer


- Credit: NEL Commissioning Support Unit

Spotting bowel cancer early could save your life. In fact, when diagnosed at its earliest stage, more than 90 per cent of people will survive for five years or more.

Sadly, this number falls considerably as the disease progresses to its later stages.

Screening is one of the most effective ways to catch bowel cancer early, and people aged 60 and over can take part in the NHS screening programme. Free home testing kits are automatically sent to people aged 60 to 74 who are registered with a GP; while those over 75 can request a test by calling 0800 707 60 60.

The tests are quick and simple to use – just collect a small stool sample and send it off in a sealed envelope for testing. More information is available at

While the risk of bowel cancer increases with age – with almost 90pc of cases occurring in the over 60s – it can affect anyone, at any age and any time.

That’s why being able to spot the signs and symptoms is essential. These include:

• blood in your stools

• a change in bowel habits (especially looser, more frequent bowel movements)

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• lower tummy pain, bloating or discomfort

Other health problems can cause similar symptoms, so they don’t necessarily mean bowel cancer. But if they persist, please make an appointment with your GP as soon as possible.

Remember, catching bowel cancer early is crucial – it could help save your life.

Bowel Cancer Awareness Month runs throughout April. More information is available at