Women fail to recognise bowel cancer signs

More than half of women in the UK say they’re not confident they’d be able to recognise the basic symptoms of bowel cancer, despite bowel cancer being the third biggest cancer affecting women.

These statistics were recently revealed by a survey carried out by private hospital group BMI Healthcare. The survey also suggests there’s a lack of awareness in women of how lifestyle affects the risk of bowel cancer. For instance, the World Cancer Research Fund claims eating red and processed meat is one of the leading causes of bowel cancer. Yet the survey suggests only 39 percent of women in the UK are aware that eating red meat is a bowel cancer risk factor.

In fact, 32 percent of women who took part in the survey said they weren’t sure that lifestyle plays a part in the risk of bowel cancer. Twenty three percent said they weren’t sure whether regular exercise could help prevent the disease, while only 29 percent of 25-34-year-old women realised not eating enough fruit and vegetables would increase their bowel cancer risk.

Know your risk

“There are factors relating to your lifestyle that are associated with an increased likelihood of bowel cancer development,” says Lee Dworkin, consultant general and colorectal surgeon at BMI The Cavell Hospital in London.

“The risks include eating processed and red meat, eating animal fat, sugar, alcohol, as well as smoking and obesity. A reduced risk has been noted in those who exercise and eat more fibre and pulses, so to reduce your risk these are steps you should take.

“The risk of bowel cancer increases as you get older – those aged 60 and older are most at risk of development and should be aware of the part they can play in reducing their risk.”

As well as knowing your risk, it’s advisable to be aware of the most common signs of bowel cancer, which include the following:

  • Bleeding from the bottom or blood in your stool
  • A regular change in bowel habit (going more often and/or looser stools
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Unexplained weight loss or tiredness
  • A lump in your stomach

According to the charity Bowel Cancer UK, scientists believe around half of all bowel cancers could be prevented by having a healthier lifestyle. Find out more about the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer, as well as how you can reduce your risk, by visiting www.bowelcanceruk.org

The charity also claims that an estimated eight percent of bowel cancer cases in the UK are linked to smoking tobacco. If you’re thinking of giving up, speak to your local Careway pharmacist for advice on stop smoking products that could help prevent nicotine cravings.

Find your nearest Careway pharmacy by using our Pharmacy Finder.