Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, is the fourth most common cancer in the UK.1 There are lots of different reasons why it develops – some of the most important factors are diet and lifestyle. The majority of bowel cancer cases can be successfully treated if they are found early.

Patrick McIntosh, a World Cancer Research Fund supporter, is a bowel cancer survivor and wants to raise awareness of the importance of prevention and screening.

“I've had three types of cancer: bowel, prostate and skin. Since my bowel cancer diagnosis, my bowel is 17 inches shorter.

“Some might say I’m extremely unlucky but it’s quite the contrary – I’m incredibly lucky. I gave blood in 2012 and tests found that my iron levels had fallen off the cliff. That led to a whole train of events that resulted in me finding out at the age of 58 that I had bowel cancer. The doctor told me that I shouldn't even have been standing up – I'd been bleeding internally. Doctors operated almost immediately, removing parts of my large and small intestines, stomach muscles and five lymph nodes.

“I thought my journey with cancer was over and seven months later I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. However, after more tests in spring 2013, I was diagnosed with very progressive prostate cancer. At the same time, I was diagnosed with skin cancer, which is ongoing but I get regular check-ups to keep it under control.

“I have since found out that I have Lynch syndrome and Muir-Torre syndrome, inherited disorders from my mother’s side, that increase my risk of getting certain types of cancers.

“Cancer affects so many people. A good friend of mine was diagnosed with bowel cancer at the same time as me. We were the same age, had the same level of fitness, but I was diagnosed with Stage 2 cancer, whereas he was diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer. Sadly, my friend died a year after diagnosis. This made me even more determined to encourage people to get tested early and to change their diets and lifestyles. I am convinced that my survival is thanks to my early diagnosis.

“More and more people are likely to live until they are 100, so I am trying to get the message out that we have a choice to live as healthily as possible and get screened early.”

Patrick McIntosh is cycling from London to Japan to raise money for and awareness of cancer prevention. “If my challenge gets just one person to listen and decide to go and get tested early then I think it’s worth it.” You can follow Patrick’s story here.

NHS England introduced a new bowel cancer screening test in 2018, which could detect more cancers earlier. The new test is easier to use than the previous screening test and more accurate. Find out more about the new screening programme and the symptoms of bowel cancer

Lifestyle factors that increase risk Lifestyle factors that reduce risk
Eating too much red and processed meat* Eating foods containing fibre
Being overweight or obese Eating wholegrains
Drinking alcohol Physical activity
Smoking tobacco  

*Processed meat has been smoked, cured or had salt or chemical preservatives added. This includes bacon, salami, chorizo, corned beef, pepperoni, pastrami, hot dogs and all types of ham.

References

1. World Cancer Research Fund. Bowel cancer. 2019.