Hi, I’m Emma, a Content Channel Editor at Macmillan. I’m writing this blog to share a little of my own personal experience with you, and to hopefully help people reduce their risk of bowel cancer and be more aware of the symptoms.

Since joining Macmillan in December last year I’ve had a great insight into how Macmillan produces its cancer information – and I’ve not been disappointed! A dedicated team of around 25 nurses and editors work together to publish information on over 200+ cancer types – including bowel cancer – making it easier than ever to get the information you need about cancer.

Bowel cancer risk

I’m a strong believer in taking action to lower your risk of cancer, where you can.

It’s true that there are some risks we can’t control. For example, 5% of bowel cancers are linked to inherited cancer genes. Older age and other health conditions also increase your risk. And many causes of cancer remain unknown.

But, it’s thought that over half of bowel cancers could be prevented by changes in lifestyle. This means:

  • eating a healthy diet
  • keeping physically active
  • keeping to a healthy weight
  • giving up smoking
  • drinking less alcohol.

Order our free leaflet Are you worried about bowel cancer? for more information about bowel cancer risk, how family history affects risk and what you can do:

 Image of the bowel cancer leaflet

Symptoms of bowel cancer

When bowel cancer is found at its earliest stage, 90% of people survive.

Speak to your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • bleeding from your back passage
  • a change in bowel habit (diarrhoea or constipation) that lasts for more than six weeks
  • a pain or lump in your tummy
  • unexplained weight loss
  • a feeling of not having emptied your bowel properly after going to the toilet.

Bowel screening
is also available for older people in the UK. Screening can help find bowel cancer early.

Finding it difficult to talk about your symptoms?

Telling your doctor about problems with your bowels, or indeed anywhere ‘down there’, can be awkward for many of us. But like my mum always used to say, “It’s important to remember it’s their job. They want you to tell them.” And the earlier you speak up, the better.

A few years ago, a family friend was diagnosed with bowel cancer. Thankfully, she made a full recovery, and remains healthy and well ten years on. But I’ll admit that, at the time, I didn’t know much about cancer and thought there was only one outcome. But now I know this really isn’t the case.

Facing the facts

It wasn’t until I worked for Macmillan that I read their information about bowel cancer. Knowing more about this type of cancer turned it into an issue to be aware of, not afraid of. It really is incredible what can be done.

I also found a few home truths. Reading about the causes of bowel cancer led me to take a hard look at my own lifestyle and to make positive changes where I can (I’ve since cut down on those bacon buttys!).

If, like me, you could gain some peace of mind by finding out more about bowel cancer, why not order the Are you worried about bowel cancer? leaflet. You can also visit our bowel cancer web pages for more detailed information, or contact our cancer support specialists on 0808 808 00 00 or via email.

Earlier this month, two Macmillan cancer information nurses answered your questions on bowel cancer in a webchat. You can read all the questions and answers in the published transcript.