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Let's talk about bowel cancer

You can talk to your GP about anything. They've seen it all so you shouldn't be embarrassed!  GPs see a wide range of different health problems, some are quite rare and some more common. April is Bowel Cancer Awareness month. Our bowels aren't always on the top of our list of things we choose talk about. 

In England, bowel cancer is the third most common type of cancer. In 2010, there were over 40,000 new cases of bowel cancer registered in the UK. Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in the UK and over 15,700 people die each year.

Older people are most at risk, but younger people can be affected too. Currently, everyone between the ages of 60 and 69 registered with a GP is offered bowel cancer screening every two years. People in this age group will automatically be sent an invitation, then their screening kit, so they can do the test at home. Your GP will provide your contact details, so it is important that he or she has your correct name and address. For more information on screening and symptoms go to NHS Choices at There's also a bowel cancer screening helpline: 0800 707 6060.

Dr Adrian McLachlan, Lambeth GP said: "Screening plays an important part in the fight against bowel cancer because the earlier the cancer is diagnosed, the greater the chance it can be cured completely."

He added: "There are lots of things you can do to help reduce your risk of bowel cancer and they are in line with general tips on staying healthy too! For instance, make sure you have enough fibre in your diet, try a bran breakfast cereal in the morning or whole wheat bread."

Some fruit and vegetables are also high in fibre like beans, peas, and raspberries. Try and keep your diet low in saturated fat, it helps reduce cholesterol so it's good for your heart too. Foods high in saturated fat include sausages, cakes and pastries. According to the British Dietetic Association the average man should eat no more than 30g, and average woman no more than 20g, of saturated fat a day. Check the dietary information on your food at the supermarket if you're unsure. Keeping active and drinking and smoking less can also help reduce the risk.

For more information on Bowel Cancer Awareness month go to