Living with bowel cancer, experiencing bowel cancer treatment, or recovering from treatment can have a big impact on daily life, and here, we talk about some of the ways bowel cancer may affect a person.
• Symptoms – bowel cancer symptoms can cause pain, discomfort, fatigue and problems going to the toilet, which can all have a significant impact on daily life. Some people also find their symptoms or their diagnosis causes anxiety or depression
• Treatment – most people with bowel cancer will be able to have some form of treatment, and this can be a difficult process, involving a big team of specialist doctors and nurses, and possibly involving radiotherapy, chemotherapy or surgery. The course of treatment prescribed may take some time to undertake, come with side effects and result in significant recovery time. Some people may find that their treatment was not successful, or some may be told their cancer is not treatable, and is terminal. Some people may find that their treatment was successful and that their cancer has gone. Treatment is then a mix of emotions, and each person will find it affects them differently. Read more about the effects of bowel cancer treatments
• Living with a stoma – some people may need to have a stoma and stoma bag fitted after bowel cancer surgery, which is usually temporary but, for some people, will be permanent. This can impact a person in lots of ways. Using a stoma and bag requires lots of practical activities such as emptying and cleaning the bag, which may take a little time to get used to. Some people find that wearing a colostomy or ileostomy bag affects the way they feel about themselves and their body image. Some people may also need to change their diet to ensure their stoma functions well. Read more about living with a colostomy and living with an ileostomy
• Sex and relationships – sometimes, living with bowel cancer causes changes to occur in a person’s close relationships with a partner or loved one. Some people find that the stress of treatment, symptoms, and inevitable changes that cancer brings to their life can cause difficulties in a relationship. Many people find that they become even closer to their partner. Bowel cancer can affect a person’s sex life, as physical changes due to surgery or radiotherapy may sometimes occur, or they may find that they have less desire for sex or body image issues. There is lots of advice about bowel cancer and sex life available. Sometimes, people just need a little time to get used to the changes cancer has brought about, and many people get through it together. The charity Relate provide lots of support, advice and therapy options for couples experiencing problems due to ill health
• Diet – bowel cancer can affect a person’s appetite and some people do not feel like eating or find eating uncomfortable. Some people who need to use a stoma and colostomy or ileostomy bag may need to alter their diet to ensure their stoma functions effectively. Some people recovering from bowel cancer or living with the disease, choose to change their diet in order to live more healthily and help their body deal with the disease. Read more about bowel cancer diet issues
• Fatigue – lots of people with cancer or recovering from cancer surgery will experience intense fatigue. This is often because the body is fighting the disease and healing. Fatigue can be challenging to deal with, but there are ways to cope with this and options for getting help and support
• Emotional and mental health effects – bowel cancer, in fact any type of cancer, can inevitably affect your emotions, thoughts and feelings. It’s really important for people with bowel cancer to nurture their emotions, and this may mean talking about how they feel, keeping a journal to help unload their thoughts, talking things through with a charity support worker, counsellor or therapist, or finding a bowel cancer support group. Read more about how to cope with mental health effects of living with bowel cancer diagnosis