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How to Detect Bowel Cancer Early | Affinity Health

Leading providers of affordable medical insurance, Affinity Health, encourage regular screening and early detection of bowel cancer.


What is Bowel Cancer?

Bowel cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the colon and rectum. It is often referred to as colorectal or colon cancer. The National Cancer Registry says that bowel cancer is the 2nd most common cancer among men. It affects one in 74 men. It is also the 3rd most common cancer among women, affecting one in 116. Bowel cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death worldwide for men and women combined.


“Bowel cancer is treatable and curable, particularly if detected early. Early detection increases survival,” says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health. “Should condition progress out of control, survival will be difficult to achieve. Early detection truly saves lives.”

What Causes Bowel Cancer?

While the exact cause of bowel cancer is unknown, a variety of factors can increase your risk, including:

  • A diet high in red or processed meats and low in fibre
  • Lack of regular physical activity
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol consumption
  • A family history of the disease
  • Ulcerative Colitis
  • Crohn’s Disease


Possible early red flags indicating bowel cancer may include:
  • Change in bowel habits (diarrhoea/constipation /consistency of stools)
  • Rectal bleeding or blood in stools
  • Persistent abdominal discomfort (cramps, gas or pain not related to diet)
  • A feeling that the bowel does not completely empty
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss


It is important to note that often bowel cancer has no signs in its early stages. It tends to only arise after it has progressed to a more advanced stage or has spread to other parts of the body. As such, it is critical to be aware of one’s family history. Take advantage of bowel cancer screening before symptoms appear. Waiting for symptoms to arise before getting them checked can be fatal.


The Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) promotes early diagnosis and screening. Colonoscopies are popular diagnostic procedures. They tend to happen most at the age of 50. Doctors might also repeat the procedure every 10 years. Repeat procedures depend on your risk factors.

What Are the Treatment Options for Bowel Cancer?

Most bowel cancers begin as polyps. Polyps are tiny growths of tissue that originate in the lining and spread to the centre of the colon or rectum. During a colonoscopy, doctors can remove polyps.


These polyps go to the labs for pathologists to examine them under microscope. Once there are conclusive results, pathologists send a report to your doctor.


Doctors use the outcome of your colonoscopy to scale your diagnosis. Once they determine the severity, doctors prescribe your treatment plan.


Doctors determine your treatment according to:
  • The stage of the cancer
  • Family history
  • Surgery records
  • Response to radiation/chemotherapy
  • Levels of affordability
Learn More: Bowel Cancer Awareness Month

About Affinity Health

Affinity Health is South Africa’s leading provider of health insurance. We offer a wide range of cover options at affordable rates. Medical cover includes access to the widest national provider network. We understand the importance of having medical insurance. We have designed healthcare products to protect you and your family when it matters the most. We strive to always give our clients peace of mind and the highest standard of service. For more information, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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