Bowel cancer: Dr Philippa Kaye lists the symptoms
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A doctor has revealed the four most common signs of rectal bowel cancer, what to do if you spot them, and if you are eligible for a free screening. “Bowel cancer occurs when malignant (or cancerous) tissue, known as a tumour, grows in the lining of the bowel,” explained Dr Henderson. “A tumour can develop in different parts of the bowel and, depending on its location, can also be termed colon or rectal cancer.” Dr Henderson added: “A tumour can develop anywhere along the tract, however, cancer of the rectum is the most common.”
As the fourth most prevalent cancer in the UK, the disease claims the lives of more than 16,000 people each year.
Yet, with early detection, treatment can begin sooner and is more likely to be effective.
Four of the main symptoms to look out for include:
- Change in bowel habits
- Blood in your poo
- Persistent lower stomach pain, bloating or discomfort
- Unexplained weight loss.
Dr Henderson elaborated on each of these rectal bowel cancer symptoms.
A change in bowel habit is “usually an increase in the frequency and the runniness [consistency] of the poo”.
As for blood in your poo, do book a doctor’s appointment if it occurs for “no particular reason or occurs with a change in bowel habit”.
Dr Henderson added that stomach discomfort “will occur with eating and may be associated with appetite changes”.
If you experience weight loss, especially when your diet has remained the same, a doctor’s appointment is warranted.
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“It’s important to note that most people that experience the symptoms above will not have bowel cancer,” said Dr Henderson.
“Instead things like medication, diet or haemorrhoids are more likely causes.”
Regardless, it’s key to get to the underlying cause of the symptoms so that appropriate action can be taken.
Any symptom that persists for three weeks or more should be checked out by a doctor.
Dr Henderson assured: “The earlier a cancer is found the easier it is to treat.
“And the purpose of the screening programme is to try and identify bowel cancer early and before symptoms start.”
Adults between the ages of 60 and 74 are entitled to an NHS bowel cancer screening.
“The screening test consists of a home test kit which is used to collect a sample of poo,” added Dr Henderson.
“It is then sent to a lab where it will be checked for any traces of blood.”
In cases where a person has a strong family history of bowel cancer, more regular screenings could be offered.
As it stands, eligible patients receive the bowel cancer screening tool kit every two years.
GP Dr Bryony Henderson works on behalf of the online health service Livi.
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