Bowel cancer symptoms can be mistaken for less serious health conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome – most people with them do not have cancer.
According to Cancer Research UK, a lump that your doctor can feel in your back passage or tummy (abdomen), more commonly on the right side, is a tell-tale sign.
Losing weight, pain in your abdomen or back passage, and tiredness and breathlessness caused by a lower than normal level of red blood cells, can also be indicators.
Other signs are ones you should look out for when you go to the toilet. These include bleeding from the back passage or blood in your poo and a change in your normal bowel habit.
A feeling of needing to strain in your back passage (as if you need to poo), even after opening your bowels, is also something to be wary of.
But you can slash the risk of the disease developing in the first place by making some simple changes to your diet and lifestyle, according to Gail Curry, head of health promotion and trying at Bowel Cancer UK and Beating Bowel Cancer.
For example keeping physically active, being of a healthy weight, avoiding processed meat and eating less red meat, cutting down on alcohol and stopping smoking can help reduce your risk
Gail added that adding avocado to your diet can help prevent bowel cancer.
Naming some other foods, she said: “Increasing your intake of fibre from vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, lentils and wholegrains such as oats and granary bread will make a real difference to your bowel health.
“You can get healthy fats from oily fish, avocados and seeds, and good sources of protein include eggs, chicken and beans.
“Drinking plenty of water to keep hydrated is also very important.”
The cause of most bowel cancers is not yet known, but there are six factors that can increase your risk of getting the disease.
According to Bowel Cancer UK these are being aged over 50, a strong family history of bowel cancer, a history of non-cancerous growths in your bowel, longstanding inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, type 2 diabetes, and an unhealthy lifestyle.
The charity says: “You are more at risk of getting bowel cancer if you have one or more of the following risk factors. This doesn’t mean that you will definitely get bowel cancer.
“Equally, if you don’t have any risk factors, it doesn’t mean you can’t get bowel cancer.”
One of the ways you can check to see if you’re at risk of the disease is to smell your poo after using the toilet.
Almost half of people in the UK claim to have never checked their poo, according to the Taymount Clinic.
If your poo has a foul smell, it could be a sign that everything is working properly in your gut.
On its website it states: “It is completely normal for your stool to smell.”
“This is a sign that your gut is working hard to remove any bad bacteria, fibre, dead cells and toxins from your body.
“However, the smell of your stool will change depending on your diet.
“So if you are a little embarrassed by the smell, try and increase the amount of vegetables in your diet.”