More than 40,000 men and women are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year in the UK. That equates to someone every 15 minutes.
Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in the UK. About one in every 20 people in the UK will develop bowel cancer during their lifetime.
However, early detection can make all the difference - over 90% of people diagnosed at the earliest stage are successfully treated.
What are the symptoms?
The early signs of bowel cancer can vary, however they can include:
Blood in the stools (faeces) or from the back passage
Persistent changes in bowel habit (such as more frequent, looser stools)
Other symptoms include:
Abdominal (tummy) pain / unusual lump
Loss of weight or appetite
Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
You might experience one, some or all of the above or no symptoms at all. Remember most symptoms will not be bowel cancer.
When to see your GP
Having symptoms doesn't necessarily mean you have bowel cancer. If you have had symptoms for three weeks or more and are worried, make an appointment with your GP.
You will not be wasting anyone's time by getting it checked out and if it's not serious, your mind will be put at rest.
How to help yourself
You can reduce your personal risk of developing cancer by these lifestyle choices:
It's never too late to stop smoking. No matter what age you stop, it reduces your chances of developing ovarian cancer and makes a real difference to your health in general. There's plenty of support and help available from the NHS. Visit smokefree.nhs.uk or call 0800 169 0169.
Keep your weight in check
If you are overweight you can lose weight by combining regular exercise and a calorie-controlled diet.
Cut down on alcohol
Bowel cancer has been linked to a heavy intake of alcohol. The more you cust down, the more you reduce your risk.
Swimming, cycling, dancing - the more you can do, the better. Even walking to your local shops instead of taking the car can make a difference.
Try to get your 5-a-day. So eat more vegetables, fruit, fish and wholegrain foods and drink plenty of water. Eat less fatty foods like cakes and pastries, less red meats and fewer processed meats like bacon and ham.
As well as making lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of bowel cancer and keeping an eye out for possible symptoms, make sure you go along to your bowel cancer screening when it is offered.
In England, NHS bowel cancer screening is currently offered to everyone aged 60 to 69 who is registered with a GP.
Find out more - download these leaflets
Bowel cancer screening from Bowel Cancer UK
Simple steps to good bowel health from Bowel Cancer UK
Keeping your bowel healthy - Easyread from Bowel Cancer UK
Bowel cancer - how to spot the signs and symptoms and reduce your risk from Cancer Research UK
Bowel Cancer UK
Beating Bowel Cancer
Bowel Cancer Information
NHS Choices: bowel cancer
NHS Choices Be Clear on Cancer: bowel cancer