Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in Scotland after lung and breast cancer. About one in every 20 people in the UK will develop bowel cancer in their lifetime and it's one of the most common types of cancer in the UK, with around 40,000 new cases diagnosed every year.
Bowel cancer is a general term for cancer that begins in the large bowel. Depending on where the cancer starts, bowel cancer is sometimes called colon or rectal cancer. It can sometimes start in your small bowel (small intestine), but small bowel cancer is much rarer than large bowel cancer.
The early signs of bowel cancer are often hidden, so it's important to look out for the following signs or changes in your bowel movements. If you experience any of the symptoms below, make an appointment with your GP as soon as possible:
- repeated bleeding from your bottom or blood in your poo
- a recent change in your poo that continues for more than four weeks without going back to normal
- watery poo on its own or with constipation (constipation on its own is less likely to be serious)
- severe pain in your stomach that won't go away, especially after eating
- you've recently lost weight without trying
- you feel tired all the time and people keep telling you that you 'look a bit pale'.
As well as looking out for the signs and symptoms above, it's important to keep an eye out for the home bowel cancer screening test coming through your letterbox.
Everyone between the ages of 50 and 74 will receive a bowel screening kit through the post every two years. If you're 75 or over, you can still take a test every two years if you want to. However, you won't automatically be sent a kit - you'll need to request one by calling the Scottish Bowel Screening Helpline on 0800 0121 833.