Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer but the second biggest cancer killer. Around 110 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every day, that’s someone every 15 minutes. There is no known cause for bowel cancer, however there are a number of factors known to increase your risk. You can’t change some of these, such as age and genetics, but you can reduce your risk by cutting down on red meat and processed food, quitting smoking, reducing your alcohol intake and exercising.
Being more active in our everyday life is one simple way to potentially reduce the risk of developing bowel cancer. Whilst we can’t all swap our desk jobs for working in more active careers, there are some simple steps you can take to help minimise the harm caused by a sedentary lifestyle, such as taking a quick walk for two minutes every half an hour while at work, or getting off the bus or train one stop early and walking the rest of the way. If you have any questions about health related work issues Fit for Work offers free, expert and impartial advice for those who have been (or are likely to be) off work for four weeks or more, and their employers.
Bowel cancer is talked about much less than other common cancers, mainly because of the embarrassment many people feel when talking about the topic. Due to this there is far less awareness of the symptoms of the disease. People don’t know what to look out for, so symptoms often go unchecked for much longer than they should do.
In order to improve early diagnosis rates we need to get everybody talking about the disease. Twenty years ago nobody talked about breast cancer openly and few people knew the symptoms, but now it is discussed openly around the dinner table. We now need bowel cancer to reach that stage when it can be talked about without clearing the room in seconds. The more people talk about it, the more everyone will be aware of the symptoms and what to look out for. And the more open we are about it, the less embarrassed we will be about chatting to the doctor about any symptoms.
By Mark Flannagan, chief executive of Beating Bowel Cancer