Better bowel health. What to watch out for

After the sad passing of Deborah James, BBC podcast presenter and bowel cancer spokesperson, enquiries around bowel health have increased.

Around 23,000 people in the UK have been inspired to Google bowel cancer symptoms and educate themselves on the signs to look out for, thanks to Deborah who worked tirelessly to raise awareness and encourage people to speak to their GP about their health concerns.

With around 43,000 new cases diagnosed annually, it’s important to be aware of what to look out for, and to act quickly, as early detection and treatment can have a huge impact on recovery.

London Blood Tests - Bowel Cancer

After the sad passing of Deborah James, BBC podcast presenter and bowel cancer spokesperson, enquiries around bowel health have increased.

What is bowel cancer?

It’s normal for the cells in our bodies to grow and divide. This usually happens in a controlled way but sometimes, this process changes and can result in the development of cancers.

Bowel cancers often develop from pre-cancerous growths known as polyps. While not all polyps become cancerous, it’s still very important to have them checked by a doctor and removed so that they can’t go on to become cancerous.

While bowel cancer most commonly affects people over the age of 50 (around 94%), more than 2,600 new cases are diagnosed every year in people under that age, so it’s important not to dismiss symptoms because you’re younger than the average age of diagnosis.

GP waiting times for blood tests in London are increasing in many practices, and appointments for non-urgent care more difficult to access, private blood testing is becoming a common alternative for many people looking to take control of their health.

What causes bowel cancer?

While the exact cause of bowel cancer isn’t known, there are various factors which can increase your risk of developing the disease, including:

  • Age. Almost 9 in 10 people with bowel cancer are aged 60 or over
  • Alcohol. Drinking alcohol might increase your risk of getting bowel cancer
  • Diet.  A diet low in fibre and high in red or processed meats can increase your risk
  • Exercise. Being inactive increases your risk of getting bowel cancer
  • Family history. Having a close relative who developed bowel cancer under the age of 50 puts you at a greater lifetime risk.
  • Related conditions. Some people also have an increased risk of bowel cancer because they've had extensive ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease for more than 10 years.
  • Smoking. Smoking may increase your chances of getting bowel cancer
  • Weight. Bowel cancer is more common in those who are overweight

What are the symptoms of bowel cancer?

The earlier bowel cancer is detected, the easier it is to treat, so we should all be aware of the warning signs of the disease.


Finding blood when you poo can be caused by a number of factors. Bright red blood may indicate haemorrhoids which have become irritated. Dark red blood could be a sign of something more serious. If you notice blood in your stool or when you wipe, talk to your doctor.

Changes to your bowel habits

It’s normal to experience changes to your bowel habits from time to time. Diet and lifestyle factors, stress, food intolerances and short-term illnesses can all cause changes to the frequency and consistency of your stools.

But if you find that this persists you should speak to your GP. Be aware if you are needing to poo more often, your stools are looser, or you feel like you’re not fully emptying your bowels when you go.

Constant tiredness

Bowel cancer can cause a lack of iron, leading to anaemia and a persistent feeling of exhaustion. Fatigue is common and can be related to a whole host of conditions, but it’s worth keeping an eye on, particularly if you’ve also noticed some of the other symptoms.

Unexplained weight loss

Although less common than other symptoms, unexplained weight loss is another sign to be aware of, particularly if you notice it along with other warning signs. If you’ve been losing weight without changing your diet or exercise routines and habits, and you’re concerned, talk to your GP.

Can you prevent bowel cancer?


While there isn’t a tried and tested way completely avoid developing cancer, there are always positive steps and better choices we can make to improve our chances of staying healthy. Some of the best things you can do to lower your risks of bowel cancer include:

  • Being aware of your family health history 
  • Eating a healthy high-fibre diet and less processed meat
  • Exercising regularly 
  • Lowering your alcohol intake 
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Quitting smoking

Is there a way to check your general gut health in London?


Maintaining a healthy gut is a cornerstone of good health. When the gut is unbalanced, it can lead to a range of unwanted and uncomfortable side effects, as well as feelings of lethargy and low mood.

While exercise and diet play a huge part in helping to keep the gut and the general digestive system functioning well it can be helpful to take a closer look with gut health testing from time to time. With knowledge of how your gut is functioning, you can make the right alterations to optimise your health and wellbeing.

Most importantly, know what is normal for you and your body and talk to your doctor if you notice any changes which concern you.

Come and visit us

Our central London walk in clinic makes getting your private blood test quick and convenient. Simply purchase your test online and attend the clinic on the same day.

At your appointment, the friendly team will talk to you about your test, collect your blood sample and send it off for testing at an accredited partner laboratory. All you need to do is arrive for your appointment. We’ll take care of the test, and the rest.

Find out more about our gut health tests