What Age Does Bowel Cancer Start?
Bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer in the UK, with nearly 43,000 people being diagnosed with the condition every year.
The cancer claims over 16,500 lives per year, which equates to 45 people every day.
In this article, we will explain the condition in more detail, as well as address the question, ‘what age does bowel cancer start?’
What is the function of the bowel?
The bowel (intestine) is a long, continuous tube, running from the stomach to the anus. It plays a key role in digestion, as well as in fighting germs and regulating the body’s water balance.
Our digestive system is designed to break down the food that we ingest and get rid of the waste.
Firstly, the bowel helps the body absorb the minerals, nutrients and fluids from the foods we consume.
Then, the leftover waste from the food are stored in the bowel, until they are emptied from the body in the form of a bowel movement.
To learn more about bowel health, click here to read our blog article on ‘How Do You Know if You Have Damaged Your Bowels?’
What is bowel cancer?
Bowel cancer (also known as colon or rectal cancer) refers to cancer that begins in the large bowel.
What happens is that a clump of cells called polyps develop in the inner lining of the colon (large bowel). If you have polyps growing inside you, this does not mean you will definitely develop cancer. Polyps can be non-cancerous and they can go away on their own.
A few polyps may continue to grow, which eventually develop into bowel cancer, over a period of several years.
What age does bowel cancer start?
It is a common misconception to believe that bowel cancer only affects older adults.
So, what age does bowel cancer start?
Bowel cancer can develop at any age, but the risk significantly increases as people get older.
The vast majority (94%) of new bowel cancer cases are diagnosed in people over 50 years old.
Between 2017 and 2019, the highest mortality rate for bowel cancer in the UK was in the 90+ age group for both males and females.
Young people under the age of 45 can still get bowel cancer. In the United States, at Yale Medicine Colon & Rectal Surgery, the youngest colorectal cancer patient diagnosed at the location was 18 years old. This demonstrates how bowel cancer can affect anybody, at any time.
Who is at high risk of bowel cancer?
There are several factors that might put a person at higher risk of developing bowel cancer. These could include:
- Being aged 50 or over
- Having a family history of bowel cancer
- A history of non-cancerous growths (polyps) in your bowel
- Longstanding inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis
- Type 2 diabetes
- Being overweight or obese
- An unhealthy lifestyle (e.g. a diet high in processed meats and low in fibre)
- Having a high alcohol intake or smoking
Is bowel cancer curable?
If the bowel cancer is detected early, then the right treatment can cure bowel cancer and stop it from coming back.
Unfortunately, a complete cure is not always possible and the cancer can still come back at a later stage.
A cure is highly unlikely in more advanced cases that cannot be removed completely by surgery.
But symptoms can be controlled and the spread of the cancer can be slowed, using treatments such as surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and medication.
How is bowel cancer diagnosed?
There are different tests that a patient can take, to find out if they have bowel cancer.
Firstly, you can consult a GP, who will ask questions about your symptoms, how they began, and what makes them worse. The GP may offer you a physical examination to check for any abnormalities. You may also be sent for a blood test, to check your iron levels and that your liver and kidneys are functioning properly.
Additionally, you may be asked to submit a stool sample, which will be analysed at a lab, to help the doctors diagnose or rule out a particular health condition.
If your results don’t come back clear, then your GP may refer you to the hospital for further testing. A specialist at the outpatient clinic will arrange any of the following tests for you:
- Endoscopy: where a long, thin tube with a small camera is inserted in your body to look inside.
- Flexible Sigmoidoscopy: an examination to look inside the rectum (back passage).
- Colonoscopy: an examination of your large bowel, to look for changes such as polyps or irritated tissues.
- Colon Capsule Endoscopy: which requires you to swallow a small camera, which takes thousands of pictures and sends them wirelessly to a digital recording device that you carry.
Whatever happens next, the doctors and nurses will do everything possible to keep you informed, make you feel comfortable, and provide the best care possible.
Can I test myself for bowel cancer?
Yes, you can take an at-home test, which detects whether there is blood in your stool. This aids in the diagnosis of bowel cancer.
Remember, the earlier you take action if you experience any unusual symptoms, the better it will be for your health.
Here at Official Rapid Tests, we offer an Instant Bowel Cancer Home Test.
This self-test is a rapid lateral flow test for the detection of human occult blood in faeces.
You can take the test in minutes, and then send it to our accredited lab for analysing, using the instructions provided. You will receive your test results and any recommendations very quickly, within just a few days, via email.
Shop our Instant Bowel Cancer Home Test here.
How do I keep my digestive system healthy?
There are many things you can do to maintain good digestive health, such as:
- Follow a high-fibre diet, to maintain bowel health and promote healthy gut bacteria. Foods that are rich in fibre include whole grains, avocado, prunes, apples, dates, berries, lentils, almonds, sunflower seeds, broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes, whole wheat pasta and rye bread.
- Limit your intake of fatty foods, such as fried foods, bacon, processed meals, baked goods such as biscuits and pastries, sugary desserts, heavy cream and butter.
- Eat smaller, frequent meals, rather than 3 large, heavy meals. This places less stress on the gastric system at any one time.
- Drink plenty of water, to stay hydrated and aid digestion.
- Visit a doctor as soon as you experience uncomfortable, persistent symptoms, such as long-lasting diarrhoea or blood in the stool.
- Take an at-home bowel health test, for early detection of bowel cancer.
- Attend colonoscopy and bowel cancer screening appointments, so that doctors can detect any potential problems as early as possible.
- Stay active. Regular exercise stimulates the gut and increases blood flow to the muscles, allowing food to pass through the digestive system much quicker, even when you are resting.
- Add probiotic supplements and fermented foods (such as yoghurt, kefir and sauerkraut) to your diet, to help balance good bacteria within the digestive tract.
- Make sure you get enough sleep, as your digestive system continues to work at night.
- Do not eat heavy meals before you fall asleep. Your digestive fluids and stomach acids are still active during sleep, so you may wake up with heart burn, acid reflux or indigestionif you overeat before bed.
- To cope with stress or anxiety, make the time to relax, unwind and enjoy leisure activities. Stress can slow down digestion and cause bloating and pain; while in others, it can speed up digestion, by causing diarrhoea and frequent toilet trips.
- Avoid skipping meals, as this will cause your blood sugar to drop and your metabolism to slow down, while it can also result in you overeating at your next meal.
- Eat slowly, chewing your food thoroughly before your swallow. When we rush our meals, this creates extra pressure on the gastrointestinal tract to do its job when it isn’t fully ready.
- Cut down on smoking, as it can be harmful for the digestive system. Research has shown that smoking significantly increases your risk of developing acid reflux, heartburn, stomach ulcers, Crohn’s Disease and gallstones.
- Drink herbal teas which help improve digestion and soothe bloating, such as ginger tea, peppermint tea, chamomile tea and fennel tea.
ABOUT OFFICIAL RAPID TESTS
At Official Rapid Tests, we are a UK Government listed testing provider. We are a team of medical industry experts, with a combined experience of 40 years in the testing, diagnostic and medical services sector.
Click here to purchase our Instant Bowel Cancer Home Test, which aids in the diagnosis of bowel cancer.
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