Coping with a Bowel Cancer Diagnosis: A Sensitive Guide

April is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month and alongside breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, and melanoma skin cancer, bowel cancer is one of the 5 most common types of cancer . Also known as colorectal cancer, almost 43,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer in the UK each year, with 94% of them being people over the age of 60.

Although a significant number of people die every year from bowel cancer, the key is early detection. With a diagnosis as early as possible, cancer can be dealt with quickly and you have a high chance of survival.

About Bowel Cancer

Bowel cancer affects the large bowel made up of the colon and the rectum. When cancer develops, the cells in the body that normally divide and grow in a controlled manner start dividing and growing in an uncontrolled way.

Pre-cancerous growths known as polyps can develop in the bowel. These polyps are not always cancerous but can sometimes develop into cancer. If a doctor finds polyps in your bowel, they can remove them before they become cancerous, and this is why early detection is so important.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Most people are diagnosed with bowel cancer either following a trip to the GP after noticing symptoms or after a routine screening. After the initial visit to your doctor, you may need to have further tests which will normally be carried out in the hospital. Some of these tests may include an endoscopy or a virtual colonoscopy and other scans.

If you are diagnosed with bowel cancer, you will be given a medical team that will be supporting you and look after your treatment. These could include a colorectal clinical nurse specialist, a colorectal surgeon, oncologists, radiologists, dieticians, psychologists, and others.

This multi-disciplinary team will discuss your case and work out the best plan for you and your treatment. Treatment can include surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy as well as complementary therapies.

Coping with Bowel Cancer

In addition to the medical side of a bowel cancer diagnosis, treatment is also being able to cope on an emotional level. A diagnosis of cancer of any kind is a significant change in someone’s life and it is important that you also look after your mental health.

You will almost certainly feel shocked when you are first told about your diagnosis of bowel cancer. Some of the other emotions that are commonly felt include anger, numbness, sadness, and fear – as well as many others. It is important to remember that however you are feeling, it is genuine, and you are not wrong for feeling like that.

Many people find that it helps to talk to someone about how they are feeling. It might be that you turn to family or close friends, but some people also prefer to talk to someone that they do not know. Your GP will also be able to put you in touch with someone who you can talk to, and you might also be offered a specialist psychologist.

Support Groups

There is also outside support available through specialist support groups or Macmillan Cancer Support. The support that is available can include specialist cancer support workers as well as peer support from people that are going through a similar situation to you.

Bowel Cancer UK also has an online forum that many people find to be helpful both to them and close friends and family.

There is a lot of information available online. However, it is important that you remember not all of it will be correct and it can be difficult to know what is right and what is not. Double check all the information you find online and go to reliable sources such as the NHS.

Coping Physically

There are many ways that your body may change physically when you have bowel cancer. Your doctor and medical team will be able to give you advice on the best ways to deal with this and there is also information that may help given by Cancer Research UK.

Some people also find that they need financial support when their situation changes after a bowel cancer diagnosis. There are various options open to you, which might include claiming for benefits and charity support.  Seek out a financial advisor that would be able to help you to understand what your options are.

Article written by Lily for For Bowel cancer Awareness Month 2022!