Bowel cancer, also known as colon, rectal and colorectal cancer, is one of the most common types of cancer in the UK – more than 40,000 people get bowel cancer each year1. To help raise awareness this Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, Louise Spence, Oncology Nurse Advisor, and her colleagues from the Oncology Support Team, are revealing the truth behind five myths they often hear about the disease.
I can’t have bowel cancer, I eat a lot of fruit and vegetables
While maintaining a healthy diet can reduce your risk of bowel cancer, it’s important to remember it doesn’t make you immune to it. You can reduce your risk by eating plenty of fibre from wholegrains, pulses, fruit and vegetables, maintaining a healthy body weight, avoiding processed meat and limiting red meat. Drinking less alcohol and having alcohol-free days, not smoking and being active can also help reduce your risk of bowel cancer.
I’m too young, only old people get bowel cancer
While bowel cancer is more common in those over 50-years-old, with more than nine out of 10 people diagnosed over the age of 502, you should remember diagnosis can occur at any age, with more than 2,500 people under the age of 50 diagnosed each year3.
Nobody in my family has had cancer, so I won’t have it
While family history of bowel cancer increases your risk of getting the disease, this doesn’t mean you will definitely get it. Equally, if you don’t have a family history of bowel cancer it doesn’t mean you can’t get the disease. One in 15 men and one in 18 women in the UK will be diagnosed with bowel cancer during their lifetime4, making it incredibly common and therefore it isn’t as simple as putting it down to family history.
I’m only constipated, it can’t be cancer
While a persistent and unexplained change in bowel habit can be a symptom of bowel cancer, most people with just this symptom won’t have the disease. Other health problems can also cause similar symptoms to bowel cancer. So, if you notice any persistent and unexplained changes in your bowel habit or you don’t feel right, make sure you see your GP.
People don’t survive bowel cancer
Bowel cancer is treatable and curable especially if diagnosed early. Most people diagnosed at the earliest stage survive bowel cancer. However, this drops significantly as the disease develops. More than 16,000 people die from bowel cancer in the UK every year – it is the second biggest cause of cancer deaths in the UK5. But the number of people dying of bowel cancer has been falling since the 1970s6. This may be due to earlier diagnosis and better treatment.