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Bowel Cancer Awareness Month


We are supporting Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, which takes place throughout April 2017. 

HRCH dietitian Veronica Mitchell writes about the warning signs - and how eating well can reduce your risk of getting bowel cancer:

Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer affects the large bowel which is made up of the colon and the rectum.  Cancer starts when something goes wrong in the cell and it starts growing uncontrollably to form a tumour. Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK after breast, prostate and lung cancers.  It is also the UK’s second biggest cancer killer due to late diagnosis. 

According to Bowel Cancer UK, 41,200 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year in the UK.  More than 9 out of 10 people diagnosed with bowel cancer are aged over 50 years old.  Your risk of developing bowel cancer also increases if you have a strong family history of bowel cancer or you have a genetic condition or bowel condition such as Crohn's and ulcerative colitis.

Screening is a way of testing healthy people for early stages of an illness before they get any symptoms.  It aims to detect cancer at an early stage when treatment is more likely to be successful.  In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, people over the age of 60 are invited for screening, whilst in Scotland, screening starts at the age of 50.

Symptoms of bowel cancer can include:

  • Bleeding from your rectum or blood in your stool
  • A persistent change in your bowel habits, lasting 3 weeks or more
  • Abdominal pain or lump in your abdomen
  • Unexplained weight loss or tiredness

However, all is not lost as over 50% of all bowel cancers could be prevented through lifestyle changes such as:

  • Stop smoking
  • Take regular exercises (at least 30 minutes, 5 days of the week)
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Eating less red meat and processed meats
  • Increase fibre intake by eating wholegrain foods and at least 5 portions of fruits and vegetables daily
  • Drinking less alcohol (no more than 14 units a week).The less you drink, the lower the risk

Practical dietary tips to include more fruits, vegetables and grains into your diet and reduce your risk of bowel cancer:

  • Choose higher fibre breakfast cereals such as whole oats, shredded wheat or wholewheat cereals
  • Choose wholemeal or granary breads over white bread and go for whole grains such as whole wheat pasta, bulgar wheat or brown rice
  • Eat potatoes with their skin on such as baked potatoes or boiled new potatoes
  • Add pulses like beans, lentils or chickpeas to stews, curries, soups and salads
  • Include plenty of vegetables with your meals either as a side dish or added to sauces, stews or curries
  • Have fresh fruits or dried fruits for dessert
  • Use fruits, vegetables sticks, oatcakes, rye crackers, unsalted nuts, seeds as snacks and use houmous and avocados as dips


You can find out more about bowel cancer on the NHS Choices website.

You can also read more healthy eating blogs, healthy recipes and dietary advice around eating well on our Healthy Eating webpage.