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How to beat bowel cancer; CATCH IT EARLY AND IT NEED NOT BE A KILLER.

Byline: KATE HODAL

LOWER YOUR RISK. Be aware: Know your own normal bowel pattern. Eat well: At least five portions of fresh fruit and veg a day. Go lean: Limit red and processed meat to just one 80 gram portion per day. Drink less: 14 units per week for women, 21 for men. Stop smoking IT was general fatigue that made Sandrine, 35, start thinking something wasn't quite right with her health. She had stopped working out at the gym, which she loved, because she was just too tired all the time. Then she started losing weight. When she finally noticed that her bowel habits were changing without reason, and that at times her rectum was even bleeding, she went to see her GP.

"I was sure her diagnosis of haemorrhoids, caused by stress and overwork - without any direct examination - wasn't right because of my age," says Sandrine, just 31 at the time.

"I was given suppositories to soothe the pain, but these had no effect, so for the next year I just carried on with my life."

Within a year, Sandrine had lost enough weight to drop two dress sizes. Eating was increasingly difficult, as she was frightened of the effect it would have on her bowels.

Finally, a bout of food poisoning made her return to the doctor. "This time, I saw a different GP who recognised my symptoms and referred me to hospital to be tested for bowel cancer," she says. "I was devastated to receive the diagnosis as I was so young and had always taken care of myself."

Sharing her story in support of charity Beating Bowel Cancer's Be Loud Be Clear campaign next week, Sandrine is just one of 37,500 men and women diagnosed annually in the UK, making it the third most common cancer behind breast and lung cancer.

Bowel cancer affects the large bowel, made up of the colon and rectum, and is also known as colorectal or colon cancer. Nearly all diagnoses (97%) are in people over the age of 50, so Sandrine's case is a are one.

While bowel cancer is currently the second largest cause of cancer deaths, killing more than 16,000 people a year, 90% of cases could be successfully treated if caught early enough, according to Beating Bowel Cancer.

SYMPTOMS Sandrine's symptoms are common, but they are not the only ones, says nurse advisor Mary Heynes of Beating Bowel Cancer. "SThey include bleeding from the rectum, mucous or blood in the stools, abdominal pain, a change in bowel habits (such as constipation or diarrhoea lasting more than two weeks), unexplained weight loss, tiredness, or, perhaps, a lump in the abdomen." RISK FACTORS The exact cause of bowel cancer remains unknown, says Ian Beaumont of charity Bowel Cancer UK, although it tends to affect older people. "Eight out of 10 cases occur in people over the age of 60, but we don't know why exactly," he says.

Those at high risk are people with a family history of the disease, or those who suffer from inflammatory bowel diseases (such as Crohn's or ulcerative colitis). But a poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, smoking and excessive drinking are all considered risk factors too.

"Being overweight can increase one's risk.

The amount of red and processed meats consumed should also be limited, as they can take longer to process in the bowel."

Regular exercise and a diet rich in fibre, including fresh fruit and veg, is considered a good method of reducing your risk.

SCREENING Bowel screening programmes targeted at those at highest risk have been rolled out across England, Scotland and Wales. Screening involves taking a stool test at home and is aimed at people aged 60-69 in England and Wales, and those aged 50-74 in Scotland.

"Bowel cancer is one of the most treatable if caught early, but unfortunately people in the UK are still diagnosed about 15% later than in the rest of Europe," says Beaumont.

Heynes agrees: "If you don't have any symptoms, but blood is found in your stool - which is what the test looks for - then your chances of catching bowel cancer earlier are much higher, making the outcome very good."

After bouts of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery, Sandrine is now in the all-clear. She says: "I'm obviously relieved I received my diagnosis in time, but would urge anyone with similar symptoms to see their doctor as soon as they can. If their diagnosis doesn't feel right, then keep pursuing medical help."

. To get involved in Beating Bowel Cancer's Be Loud Be Clear campaign, January 25-31, visit www.beatingbowelcancer.org
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 23, 2010
Words:766
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