At Home with Chris Jessen 2018 - 84
round 110 people are diagnosed
with bowel cancer each day,
that's someone every 15 minutes.
However, research suggests over
93% will survive for more than
five years if diagnosed at the
earliest stage. It can affect any
part of the bowel, but is most
common in the colon (large
intestine) and rectum (the final section of the colon).
to normal cells, are slow growing and unlikely to spread,
while moderate-grade cells are more abnormal looking
and high-grade cells appear very abnormal.
WHAT TO ASK YOUR DOCTOR
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
A change in your bowel habits.
Bloody faeces or bleeding from your bottom.
Unexplained tiredness and/or weight loss.
A lump or pain in your abdomen.
Feeling like you can't empty your bowels properly
(sometimes, bowel cancer can cause a blockage leading
to pain, a bloated feeling, constipation and being sick).
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have
any of the above symptoms. Bear in mind these signs are
often be caused by other medical conditions, but they
should be checked out by a GP regardless.
HOW BOWEL CANCER IS
If you're diagnosed with bowel cancer, your oncologist
will grade your cancer according to it's location, size
and spread. This will give your treatment team an
idea of how best to manage your cancer and the likely
progression of the disease. There are two ways to assess
the stage of your illness: the Dukes' method and the
more commonly used tumour, nodes and metastasis
(TNM) and number staging method. TNM staging
gives a very detailed account of your cancer, and is
used to create the following groups:
Stage 0 Cancerous cells are contained within the lining
of the bowel, and there is very little chance they have spread.
Stage 1 The tumour has grown into the bowel wall.
Stage 2 While the lymph nodes are clear, the cancer
has spread to the outer covering of the bowel (Stage 2a)
or the surrounding organs and tissues (Stage 2b). About
a quarter of people diagnosed with bowel cancer will
be at Stage 2. After surgery, around 77% of this group
will live for more than five years.
Stage 3 The lymph nodes have become cancerous.
Stage 4 The cancer has spread to other parts of the
The grade of the cells will also give the oncologist an
idea of your prognosis. Low-grade cells look very similar
084 | FEBRUARY 2018
down to food
or a bad diet
- it may be
IS IT TREATABLE?
Yes. The earlier bowel cancer is diagnosed, the better.
If it is detected at its earliest stage, more than 93% of
patients survive for longer than five years.
For 80% of patients, surgery is the main treatment,
but chemotherapy and radiotherapy may be offered, too.
'The aim of surgery is to remove the affected bowel,
as well as the surrounding lymph nodes (glands),
to allow assessment of the extent of the disease,' says
consultant laparoscopic and colorectal surgeon Mr
Anthony Antoniou. 'This will determine the stage of
the disease and whether or not further treatment with
chemotherapy is required.'
If it is at the early stage, the cancer will be removed
from the bowel lining. By using keyhole surgery, >
AN EFFECTIVE solution
AROUND 70,000 PEOPLE ARE LIVING
WITH A COLOSTOMY BAG (A POUCH
TYPE DEVICE) IN THE UK
If bowel cancer is diagnosed, it's often essential
to cut out a section of the colon. Because of this,
it is then necessary to find a new way for the
body to expel its excess waste.
A common solution is a colostomy operation.
This surgery involves diverting a section of the
colon and attaching it to an opening in the
abdominal wall, known as a stoma. A bag is
usually attached to the stoma to collect the
waste products that would normally pass
through the colon and out of the body via the
rectum and the anus.
Modern colostomy equipment is both discreet
and secure, and there is no reason why you can't
live an active, productive life after the operation.
WORDS: SUSAN HARGREAVES, IMAGES: GETTY IMAGES
WHAT CAUSES IT?
The exact cause of bowel cancer is unknown, but the
risk increases as you age - 75% of people diagnosed
with this type of cancer are over 65. Genetics also plays
a part. Some evidence suggests that a diet high in meat
and fat, but low in fibre, increases the risk due to the
irregular bowel movements produced by such a diet.
Additionally, research has found that lifestyle choices,
such as smoking and drinking alcohol, can increase the
risk, as can being overweight or inactive.
Bowel cancers could be prevented with changes in
diet and lifestyle. In general, a diet rich in fresh fruit
and vegetables seems to be associated with a lower risk.
Being diagnosed with cancer is a big shock, so it's a good
idea for anyone who receives such a diagnosis to prepare
what they want to ask the doctor in advance, to ensure
they get all the information they need. They could write
down the answers, or ask a friend or family member to
write them down, as they may need to go away and
decide on which course of action they want to take.
The following questions may be helpful:
Can you tell me the stage and grade of my cancer
and what that means?
Is there a clear prognosis?
What treatment do I need?
Are there side-effects to the treatment?
Is there a specialist nurse I can see?
What will happen at my follow-ups?
Is there anything I should look out for?
What should I do if I am worried between