Don’t be a fool; check your stools

Some of you may be reading news items posted today with a certain guardedness to avoid being caught by the customary tall tales that appear as part of April Fools’ Day frivolities. This, however, is no joke. April 1st marks the beginning of bowel cancer awareness month, with many organisations and individuals doing their bit to raise awareness of this condition, as the symptoms are often ignored by sufferers until the disease is life-threatening.

According to Cancer Research UK, bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in men, and the second most common in women, with over 1.23 million new cases reported worldwide in 2008. Although screening for bowel cancer is now offered to those in high-risk groups in some countries, as with other cancers, it’s important to recognise the symptoms of the disease in order to catch it early. Familiarising ourselves with our own bowel habits can help enable us to notice any prolonged changes that may occur, and along with recognizing other changes that can be symptomatic of bowel cancer, can alert us to get anything unusual checked by a GP.

There is a large amount of research ongoing in the field of bowel cancer looking at potential causes, diagnostic markers, treatment and management of the condition. Hereditary Cancer in Clinical Practice recently published the proceedings from the 14th Annual Meeting of the Collaborative Group of the Americas on Inherited Colorectal Cancer, presenting some of the latest ideas and developments in the field.

It is important to continue to raise awareness of bowel cancer to ensure that the research in this area continues to be funded and that the support needed can be provided for patients and their families.

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