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  • Writer's pictureMaddie Cowey

The Second Biggest Cancer Killer

April is bowel cancer awareness month. What do you know about bowel cancer? This month I have found out that it is the second most deadly cancer in the UK as well as being one of the most common cancer types. Between 2015-2017 in the UK, more than half of new cases of cancer were breast, prostate, lung or bowel cancer. So, as much as I go on about needing more awareness of the rare cancers, it is still incredibly important for us to talk about and educate people on these more common and more deadly cancers.

One of the biggest reasons a cancer becomes life-threatening is late diagnosis. I am sure we all have it drilled into our heads by now that the earlier you are diagnosed the better. Yet, people still delay seeing a health professional about their symptoms. Due to embarrassment, the thought that they're 'too young', that it's not important/they're 'too busy' to book an appointment, they don't want to make a fuss. Another reason people may delay seeing a medical professional is that they simply do not know their symptoms could be symptoms of cancer or anything sinister.

Bowel Cancer UK's recent survey showed that 42% of adults living the UK are not aware of the symptoms of bowel cancer. So, let's just outline those now:

  • Blood in your poo or from your bottom (you should always check your poop!)

  • Obvious change in your bowel habit (e.g. going more or less often)

  • Weight loss you just can't explain

  • Extreme tiredness for no apparent reason

  • Lump and/or pain in your tummy

Very cleverly, this latest bowel cancer campaign has given a memorable acronym to remember the signs and symptoms: BOWEL. Clever, right?

So, if you do experience any of these symptoms, what should you do? Obviously, see a doctor, ideally within 3 weeks of experiencing any symptoms. What could help your doctor decide the best course of action would be to keep a diary of symptoms. Unfortunately, I have heard too many stories of people being ignored by doctors, being told their symptoms were simply IBS and not being sent for the right tests. It shouldn't be this way but, especially if you are worried, you need to advocate for yourself. Take pictures of your poop if needs be. We should not be embarrassed - our health should always come first. Any delay can literally be the difference between life and death.

Anyone can get bowel cancer - young, old, male, female, black, white, healthy, unhealthy. Anyone. However, there are some factors that put you at greater risk:

  • Aged over 50

  • A strong family history of bowel cancer

  • A history of non-cancerous growths (polyps) in your bowel

  • Longstanding inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • An unhealthy lifestyle

If you are someone with any of these risk factors, you are at greater risk, however if you are not on the list, you are not immune.

A Girl vs Cancer campaign ('The Bowel Babes') this month has been amazing at highlighting the fact that bowel cancer isn't just an 'unhealthy' 50+ person's disease. Lauren Mahon aka GirlvsCancer has released a line of 'Give a shit' t-shirts and socks, modelled by a group of young women who all have bowel cancer. Her aim was to bring a little bit of glitz and glamour to the 'brown' cancer, to emulate and make amends for the amount of pink and fluffy attention breast cancer receives every year. I think we all know to check our breasts - but do we all know to check our poo? We can chat shit about our boobs but when it comes to actually chatting shit we're too embarrassed. The fact is, bowel cancer is not marketable, so doesn't receive funding and attention from big brands. How depressing is that?

There are some ways you can reduce your risk of getting bowel cancer, for instance eating a diet rich in fibre, regular exercise, quitting smoking, eating less red and processed meat. However, while prevention is key, I think it is just as important to be aware of the symptoms and risk factors so you can get yourself checked at the earliest possible time. Enough people are diagnosed with bowel cancer with no known cause - just pure bad luck - that it is not something that, in my opinion, requires that much anxiety and attention.

As always, it is pivotal to keep an eye on your health, and to do everything in your power to fuel your body with the nutrition it needs and move it in the ways that feel good. I just don't want to sell a 'healthy' lifestyle as an easy cancer-prevention tool, as it simply is not.

So, today is the last day of April, the last day of bowel cancer awareness month. So please, share this blog, spread the word, check your own poop/start keeping an eye on yourself and your bowel habits. If you fancy helping further you could of course donate to a bowel cancer charity, for example Bowel Cancer UK. I will leave a donate link below.

Thank you for reading guys! Don't forget to spread the word.

Until next time

M x


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