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Early detection of colorectal cancer

Raising awareness about colorectal cancer is crucial, because in the United Kingdom colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cause of cancer and the second commonest cause of cancer related death.

According to Cancer Research UK 1 in 15 males and 1 in 18 females will be diagnosed with bowel cancer in their lifetime. Although most people with bowel cancer are diagnosed when they are over the age of 50, more than 2,500 people under 50 are diagnosed each year in the United Kingdom. In fact, bowel cancer rates are increasing in adults aged between 20 and 50 years old. A Bowel Cancer UK survey suggested that half of younger people surveyed didn’t know that they could develop the disease before their diagnosis. Younger people often had to visit their general practitioner several times before being referred for further tests, leading to delayed diagnosis.

Symptoms of colorectal cancer

Although you may not experience any symptoms with colorectal cancer, there are some early warning signs that may include:

Change in bowel habits, such as diarrhoea or constipation

A feeling that you need to open your bowels even though your bowels are empty (tenesmus)

Rectal bleeding with bright red blood

Blood in the stool, which might make it look dark brown or black

Cramping or abdominal pain

Weakness and fatigue

Unintentional weight loss

Risk factors for colon cancer

In addition to age there are several other risk factors for colorectal cancer:

Family history of colorectal cancer

Inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease)

Type 2 diabetes



Diets high in red or processed meat

Diets low in fibre

High alcohol intake Physical inactivity

Vanash Patel Consultant in Colorectal and General Surgery

London, Hertfordshire and Surrey