Online Bowel Health Checker

What do you know about bowel health?

Take this short quiz and find out more about staying healthy and the signs of bowel cancer.

This is a tool provided by the Irish Cancer Society for information only and is not intended to replace a consultation with your doctor.

First of all, what is your age?

Are you male or female?

Although bowel cancer usually occurs in people over 60 years of age, younger people may also be at risk.

Question 2


Your BMI:
Calulate your BMI here

  • Underweight: 18.5 or less
  • Normal: 18.5 – 24.9
  • Overweight: 25-29.9
  • Obese: 30+

Question 2


Body Mass Index

Obesity and the high levels of insulin associated with it can increase the risk of bowel cancer. Where the body fat is located is important too as extra fat stored around the waist is strongly linked with bowel cancer risk.

Remember, after not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight is the most important thing you can do to prevent cancer.

Question 3


Do you drink alcohol?
  • Yes
  • No

How many standard drinks do you drink per week?

  • None
  • 1-2
  • 3-4
  • 4-5
  • 5+

Question 3


Alcohol - Standard drinks do you drink per week?

Drinking alcohol can cause at least seven types of cancer: those of the mouth, gullet (oesophagus), throat (pharynx and larynx), liver, large bowel (colon and rectum), and breast. Bowel cancer has been linked to a heavy intake of alcohol. Drinking any amount of alcohol increases the risk of cancer. The more alcohol you drink, the higher the risk of developing cancer.

You can limit your risk by drinking no more than one standard drink a day if you are a woman, and two standard drinks per day if you are a man.

Question 4


Do you smoke?

  • Yes
  • No – have quit
  • No

Question 4


Smoker

Tobacco contains many toxins which have a damaging effect on your health. Smoking is a known risk factor for bowel cancer and other life-threatening diseases in both men and women. Smokers are more likely than non-smokers to develop bowel cancer.

Question 5


Do you take regular exercise (at least 30 minutes of moderate activity five times per week)?
  • Yes
  • No

Question 5


Regular exercise (at least 30 minutes of moderate activity five times per week)?

It is estimated that 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day offers the most protection against bowel cancer.
  • Physical activity leads to regular bowel movements which reduces the time the bowel is exposed to likely cancer-causing substances.
  • Physical activity reduces inflammation of the bowel, which might otherwise increase your bowel cancer risk.
  • Physical activity reduces the amount of insulin and some other hormones in your body. At high levels, these hormones can encourage the growth of cancer cells.

Question 6


Do you eat more than 70g / 2.5oz of processed fish, poultry or red meat per day? (i.e. those preserved by smoking, curing, salting or adding preservatives, such as smoked salmon, sausages, bacon, ham)
  • Yes
  • No

Question 6


Eat more than 70g/ 2.5oz of processed fish, poultry or red meat per day? (i.e. those preserved by smoking, curing, salting or adding preservatives, such as smoked salmon, sausages, bacon, ham)

Meat is an important source of protein and other nutrients for the average Irish diet but there is strong scientific evidence to suggest that by avoiding or limiting the consumption of processed meat, and reducing your intake of red meat, you can help reduce your risk of bowel cancer. As a guide, it is recommended to eat no more than 500 grams of red meat per week (cooked weight).

Question 7


Do you normally consume 5- 7 servings of fruit and vegetables a day?
  • Yes
  • No

Question 7


Normally consume 5- 7 servings of fruit and vegetables a day?

Fruit and vegetables are generally low in calories and fat, and high in vitamins, minerals and fibre. They also contain antioxidants that help protect cells in the body from damage that can lead to cancer.

Eat up to seven portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Use fresh, tinned (in natural juices or light syrup), frozen or dried fruits and vegetables.

Smoothies, vegetable soups, stews and casseroles are a good way to eat fruits and vegetables.

Question 8


Do you normally consume 3- 5 servings of wholemeal cereals and breads, potatoes, pasta and rice per day?
  • Yes
  • No

Question 8


Normally consume 3- 5 servings of whole meal cereals and breads, potatoes, pasta and rice per day?

Foods high in fibre like fruits, vegetables, pulses and wholegrain foods can help to keep the bowel healthy and reduce the risk of bowel cancer. This type of food encourages the production of helpful chemicals and increases the frequency of bowel movements, which reduce the amount of time harmful chemicals stay in contact with the bowel.

Fibre may also help gut bacteria produce helpful chemicals that change the conditions in the bowel. All these help to reduce the risk of cancer.
Read more
Wholegrains help you stay full for longer and maintain a healthy weight. To get wholegrains into your diet: Choose brown bread over white, eat porridge or wholegrain cereal for breakfast, eat brown rice instead of white, choose whole wheat pasta.
Pulses (peas, beans and lentils) are a great addition to your diet because they're high in fibre and protein, they are also filling and keep your hunger pangs away.

Question 9


Do you eat foods and drinks high in fat, sugar and salt every day? (Chocolate, cake, sweets, crisps, ice cream, sugary drinks)

  • Yes every day
  • Yes 2-3 days per week
  • Yes once a week
  • Rarely

Question 9


Normally consume foods and drinks high in fat, sugar and salt every day? (Chocolate, cake, sweets, crisps, ice cream, sugary drinks)

Foods and drinks high in fat, sugar and salt are not needed for good health and should not be eaten every day. Very small amounts once a week is enough.

Avoiding food which are high in fat and salt will also help keep you from being overweight or obese, further reducing your risk of cancer.

Question 10


Is there a history of cancer in your mother, father, brother, sister or blood-related aunt or uncle?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Don’t Know

Question 10


History of bowel cancer in your mother, father, brother, sister or blood-related aunt or uncle?

Although just, 1 in 4 of all bowel cancer cases have a family history, the more family members affected by bowel cancer, and the younger they were, the greater the chance of a family link.
If you have a family history of bowel cancer you should discuss this with your doctor.

Question 11


Signs of bowel cancer

Question 11


Signs of bowel cancer

Sometimes a change in your bowel habit for more than 2 weeks, such as going to the toilet more often, looser motions, diarrhoea, constipation, bloating and gas can be a symptom of bowel cancer.

Pain or discomfort in your tummy area or back passage can be a sign of bowel cancer and other medical conditions. These changes can indicate other medical conditions and it is always advisable to talk to your doctor if you experience these problems.
Read more
Blood in your stools or bleeding from your back passage can be caused by many different medical conditions but can be a sign of cancer.

Very dark or black stools can be a sign of hidden or occult blood in the stool, dark stools can also be caused by the use of iron supplements but it is always advisable to visit your doctor if you notice blood present in your stool.

Question 12


Have you recently experienced these symptoms or conditions?

Question 12


Have you recently experienced these symptoms or conditions?

If you are losing weight without trying, feeling more tired or breathless than usual or having persistent pain or discomfort in your stomach or back passage it is advisable to visit your Doctor

These symptoms can be caused by a number or different medical conditions but can also be caused by bowel cancer.

Question 13


Do you have a history of……….

Question 13


Do you have a history of……….

Having some of the medical conditions listed above can increase your risk of developing bowel cancer in the future.

Read more
  • A polyp is a small abnormal growth of tissue in the lining of the bowel. Polyps are usually benign (not cancer), but if left untreated, can sometimes lead to cancer. If polyps are found, they can be removed easily.
  • Ulcerative colitis is an inflammation of the large intestine (colon). Intermittent rectal bleeding, crampy abdominal pain and diarrhoea often are symptoms of ulcerative colitis. Ongoing ulcerative colitis is a risk factor for bowel cancer.
  • Crohn’s disease is a long term condition that causes inflammation in the gut. People with Crohn's disease have an increased risk of developing bowel cancer compared with the risk of the general population.
  • People with type 2 diabetes have also been shown to be at a greater risk of developing bowel cancer.

Question 14


Have you taken part in the National Bowel Screening Programme?
  • Yes
  • No

Question 14


Has taken part in the Bowel screening Programme

Bowel cancer screening could help you to detect bowel cancer at an early stage, giving you a better chance of treating it successfully. Screening may also find other changes in the bowel, such as polyps. If you are between 60 and 69 years old BowelScreen will send you a letter asking you to take part in the bowel screening programme. If you are willing to take part in the screening programme you will be sent a home test kit called FIT (Faecal Immunochemical Test) in the post so you can complete the test at home. The test kit will include step-by-step instructions.

9 in 10 people can expect a normal result and these people will be invited for routine screening again in two years. About 5 in 100 people will receive an abnormal result and will need an additional test. They will be referred to the hospital for a screening colonoscopy to determine any abnormality in the bowel.

Over time the programme will be expanded until the full 55 to 74 age group is reached. In the meantime if you have any concerns or symptoms at any time please see your Doctor. For more information on the screening programme, you can contact BowelScreen directly at freephone 1800 45 45 55 or visit the BowelScreen website www.bowelscreen.ie

Knowing the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer and attending screening can help detect bowel cancer early.

Thank you

Thank you for taking part in the Irish Cancer Society Online Bowel Health Checker.

Remember this checklist is not a substitute for a doctor. If you are concerned about your bowel health, please visit your doctor, regardless of what results you have on our checklist.

For more information call our Cancer Nurseline Freephone 1800 200 700 and speak to one of our cancer nurses for confidential advice, support and information.

For information and support about giving up smoking, visit www.quit.ie

For more information on the bowel screening programme, you can contact BowelScreen directly at freephone 1800 45 45 55 or visit the BowelScreen website www.bowelscreen.ie

You may find it helpful to print your results and bring them with you to your doctor, please print your report here.

Your results

  • No Symptoms

For more information call our Cancer Nurseline Freephone 1800 200 700 and speak to one of our cancer nurses for confidential advice, support and information.
For information and support about giving up smoking, visit www.quit.ie