The month of April is Bowel Cancer Awareness month, with the intention of raising awareness of the disease, its early signs and symptoms and risk factors. You may be surprised to learn that bowel cancer is the second most deadly cancer in Ireland after lung cancer-so it’s really vital that more people inform and educate themselves about it. Between 2500-3000 new cases are diagnosed every year, although it is treatable if caught early.
The first signs and symptoms are usually noticed when changes occur in your bowel habits. This could be the presence of blood (either bright red or dark) or a feeling of not having emptied your bowel fully after using the toilet. Unexplained weight loss is also a common sign that something is not right and pain in your stomach or rectum should also be investigated further.
If any changes to your bowel elimination process become an ongoing issue for longer than 6 weeks it should certainly be investigated further. As always the sooner you act the better chance you will have of successful bowel cancer treatment.
While your risk of bowel cancer increases with age, there are actions you can take to reduce your risk factors. Eating a diet high in fibre and low in fat will always stand better to maintaining or improving your digestive and bowel health. Avoid cured and processed meats like sausages and ham and try to eat less sugary processed foods. The less alcohol you drink, the lower the risk of bowel cancer and the same goes for smoking-so if you have ever thought about quitting either, your overall health will certainly thank you for it. A lack of regular physical activity and obesity are also considerable risk factors for colorectal cancer while genetics also play a role in many cases-but the strongest links have been shown to suggest that diet, smoking and alcohol are the major contributing factors to the disease.
The Irish Cancer Society www.cancer.ie is a trusted and informative support resource for people living with bowel cancer. An Online Bowel Health Checker quiz can help you to determine your risk factors and the Cancer Nurseline offers confidential support, advice and information on 1800 200 700.
Irish people aged 60-69 will be offered free screening by BowelScreen, for more information see www.bowelscreen.ie.
As pharmacists at the heart of our local communities, we deal daily with people who are undergoing various cancer treatments and we can offer helpful advice about the various medications and procedures that you may encounter on your bowel cancer treatment journey.
Any cancer diagnosis is distressing and can be overwhelming but we aim to develop trusting, supportive and empathetic relationships with our customers-so please feel free to approach our staff in any of our Brennan’s Pharmacy branches for trusted advice when you need it.