Raising awareness of the importance of early diagnosis and treatment of bowel cancer during this Bowel Cancer Awareness Month.
April is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month. Bowel Cancer UK, a leading bowel cancer charity, is raising awareness of bowel cancer and the importance of early diagnosis. They report that over 90% of patients who are diagnosed early can receive successful treatment.
Bowel cancer is also known as colorectal cancer or colon cancer – it is cancer that affects the colon and rectum. The colon is the large bowel and rectum is the back passage. It usually grows very slowly over a period of up to 10 years before it starts to spread and affect other parts of the body.
Most bowel cancers start as benign (non cancerous) growths called polyps on the wall of the bowel. Polyps are like small spots or cherries and are pre-cancerous. However, one type of polyp called an adenoma can become malignant/cancerous.
The factors that can increase the risk of bowel cancer are:
• Family history
Bowel Cancer UK report that some of the most common symptoms of bowel cancer are:
• Bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your poo
• A change in bowel habit lasting for 3 weeks or more especially to looser or runny poo
• Unexplained weight loss
• Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
• A pain or lump in your tummy
If you experience any of these symptoms then you should consult your GP.
Bowel Cancer can be diagnosed by way of a colonoscopy – this is an examination to look at the lining of the whole bowel to see if there are any polyps or a cancerous tumour within any part of it.
Being diagnosis with cancer comes as a terrible shock for most people. You may look back on the experience and remember it as being a ‘bit of a blur’. Often you will be given much information that you are only able to take in part of what you were told.
The good news is that bowel cancer can be successfully treated in over 90% of cases if diagnosed early. The early symptoms of bowel cancer are very similar to other, much less serious problems with the bowel. Be aware of what is normal for you, so that you recognise any unusual changes and seek advice if you are not sure.
There is also an active bowel cancer screening programme in operation in England for those aged between 60 and 74. Any patient in that age range who is registered with a GP should automatically receive an invitation to be screened. It was reported in the news recently that only just over half of all patients took up the option of screening, despite clear results that the screening programme had identified more than 7,000 cancers in the first 4 years of operation. Patients are therefore urged to take up the option of screening which could lead to an earlier diagnosis.
The evidence is clear – the earliest diagnosis of bowel cancer will ensure the best outcome. It is therefore vital that all health professionals are also aware of the symptoms of bowel cancer and undertake the right investigations when bowel cancer is a suspected diagnosis. As clinical negligence lawyers we are experienced in dealing with clinical negligence claims as a result of delayed diagnosis of bowel cancer. In those cases the patient has suffered a worse outcome, often requiring more extensive and invasive treatment and having a poorer prognosis which could have been avoided had they been diagnosed early when they first experienced symptoms and sought advice from their GP or other healthcare professional.
If you have concerns about your treatment and whether there has been misdiagnosis or delay in diagnosis or treatment, please contact us for further advice.