Colorectal Cancer

This is the third commonest cancer in the UK. Identifying it early can help save lives.
Risk factors include:
• Age
• Family history
• History of inflammatory bowel disease
• Smoking
• Obesity
• Polyposis syndromes (FAP)
• Dietary factors (excessive meat consumption, low fibre / vegetable intake)

Making positive lifestyle and dietary changes can help lower your risk.

Typical red flag symptoms / signs of colorectal cancer are:
• Blood in the stools
• Persistent change in bowel habit
• Iron deficiency anaemia
• Weight loss

If you have any of these symptoms we would recommend you consult with a doctor urgently to get further investigations.

However, these symptoms can often be a late sign of colorectal cancer, by the time they are present the disease may be at an advanced stage. The aim of screening for colorectal cancer is identify disease early enough so definitive treatment can be provided resulting in higher survival rates. Screening can also identify polyps in the bowel which have the potential to undergo malignant change.

There are different forms of screening available:
– Faecal occult blood (FOB) – this is a stool test which identifies blood in the stools even if it’s not visible to the naked eye. A positive result can potentially indicate bowel cancer, however there are other causes such as ulcers, haemorrhoids, diverticular disease etc. Anyone with a positive FOB would require further investigations, such as a colonoscopy or CT colonogram. We recommend annual FOB for low risk patients over the age of 50. We now offer the more accurate faecal immunochemical test (FIT) as standard for this type of test.
– CT colonography – this test visualises the large bowel and can pick up tumours and polyps at an early stage. Even though a biopsy can’t be taken, it is less invasive than a colonoscopy and serves as an excellent screening test. It has the added advantage of examining other structures in the abdomen including the liver, pancreas and kidneys. We recommend at least 5 yearly CT colonography for low risk patients.
– Colonoscopy – this test directly visualises the large bowel and is usually performed under sedation. Although more invasive it’s a detailed test with the advantage of being able to take biopsies of any suspicious looking lesions. We recommend at least 10 yearly colonoscopy for low risk patients. Those at higher risk (family history, inflammatory bowel disease, presence of polyps etc) should be offered more frequent testing tailored to their individual case.

Please contact us for further information.