Most bowel cancers develop from pre-cancerous growths, known as polyps within the large bowel. However, this does not mean that the presence of polyps guarantees cancer. Yet, if polyps are present, they don’t usually cause any symptoms. The leading charity, Bowel Cancer UK, elaborated: “Larger polyps can sometimes cause symptoms.”
Examples include “bleeding from your bottom, blood in your poo, a production of mucus when you go to the toilet, diarrhoea or constipation”.
Tummy pain can also be a warning sign of a cancerous tumour.
In the UK, the NHS pointed out that free screening begins from the age of 60.
Right now, 56-year-olds are also eligible for free bowel cancer screening.
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The home test kit – a faecal immunochemical test (FIT) – requires a small sample of poo to be sent off to a laboratory.
“This is checked for tiny amounts of blood,” the NHS explained. “Blood can be a sign of polyps or bowel cancer.”
If, however, you identify with any symptoms of bowel cancer, do not wait until you are old enough for a free screening.
By talking to your doctor, free health checks can begin, which could ultimately save your life if it is cancer.
Even if you have recently completed a FIT test, any signs of bowel cancer should be investigated by your doctor.
How often do FIT tests get sent to my home?
FIT tests are sent to eligible patients who are registered to their GP (i.e. doctor’s) surgery every two years.
People aged 75 and older will not automatically be sent a FIT test.
In order to still receive a free bowel cancer screening, you can contact the helpline on 0800 707 6060.
How likely is it that I will develop bowel cancer?
This type of cancer is extremely common in the UK, so everybody is at some risk of the disease.
However, Bowel Cancer UK stated that people who have long-standing inflammatory bowel disease are at increased risk.
This includes people who have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
People who have type 2 diabetes are also at increased risk, especially if they lead an unhealthy lifestyle.
An “unhealthy lifestyle” constitutes of drinking alcohol, smoking, and not being physically active.
“Having risk factors doesn’t mean that you will definitely get bowel cancer,” Bowel Cancer UK assured.
“Equally, if you don’t have any risk factors, it doesn’t mean you won’t get bowel cancer.”
Therefore, if you notice any symptoms, do book a doctor’s appointment to be on the safe side.