Bowel cancer: are cases on the rise in younger people?

Written by: Dr Aathavan Loganayagam
Published: | Updated: 23/07/2020
Edited by: Laura Burgess

Often regarded as an older person’s disease, every year over 2,500 younger people are diagnosed with bowel cancer in the UK. While this is only around six per cent of those diagnosed, this number is slowly increasing with bowel cancer cases in 15 to 24-year-olds rising 186 per cent in the past three decades.

Here, one of our expert gastroenterologists, Dr Aathavan Loganayagam, explains which symptoms of bowel cancer to be wary of and how to ensure that both you and your GP are doing everything that you can to investigate them and either rule out the disease or catch it in its early stages.



What are the risk factors of bowel cancer?

Risk factors for early-onset bowel cancer remain unknown.

While bowel cancer is still more common in the over-50s, studies have shown it’s sometimes more aggressive in younger patients.

How do you think we can tackle cases of bowel cancer in young people?

Young people and their GPs need to recognise and promptly investigate symptoms to rule out bowel cancer as an underlying cause. Younger patients report having to see their GP many times, sometimes more than five times, before being referred for crucial diagnostic tests. Symptoms suggestive of bowel cancer should be followed up with colonoscopy within 30 days.

What are the symptoms to pay attention to for bowel cancer?

If you experience any of these symptoms for two weeks or more, see your GP:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Persistent changes in bowel habits
  • Blood in the bowel movement or rectal bleeding
  • Unexplained tiredness or weight loss
  • It’s also important for people to know your family history – if your mother, father, brother or sister had bowel cancer before the age of 55.

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms as mentioned by Dr Loganayagam, you can book to have a video call with him using our e-Consultation tool or make an appointment to see him in person here.

By Dr Aathavan Loganayagam

Dr Aathavan Loganayagam trained in medicine at Guy’s, King's and St. Thomas’ medical schools. He then underwent rigorous structured specialty training in gastroenterology and general internal medicine in the well respected South London training programme.

He then spent two years during postgraduate training as a research and endoscopy fellow at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospitals, London. His research was in the fields of pharmacogenetics, inflammatory bowel disease and gastrointestinal malignancy. He has received awards and grants for outstanding research work, including the prestigious NHS Innovation London Award.

Dr Loganayagam has numerous publications in peer reviewed journals on all aspects of gastroenterology. He is actively involved in clinical research. He has particular local expertise in the practice of personalised medicine and the utilisation of novel therapeutic agents in the treatment of complex inflammatory bowel disease. He is currently the lead clinician for endoscopy at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolwich.

Diagnostic and advanced therapeutic endoscopy remains a major part of his clinical expertise, including assessment and treatment of inflammatory bowel disease, strictures, polyps and cancers.

Dr Loganayagam is an approachable doctor who takes pride in his communication skills with patients. He is keen to ensure that patients are fully informed and involved in all aspects of their care.

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