Rectal Bleeding

One of the most common, and deadliest types of cancer diagnosed in the UK, bowel cancer needs to be diagnosed early for the best chance of survival. The earlier it is detected, the easier it is to treat, yet the symptoms can be difficult to spot.

A new study has recently revealed the most reliable symptom for diagnosing bowel cancer is hematochezia, or rectal bleeding. Here, we look at the results of the latest study and what other signs you should watch out for.

The latest bowel cancer study

The study, published in the BMC Primary Care journal, aimed to identify the symptoms that could be used as a reliable indicator of bowel cancer. Researchers looked at a total of 511 cancer patients from Norway, Sweden, Scotland, Belgium, Denmark, and the Netherlands.

A standardised form was used to collect information about the symptoms patients experienced. The researchers also collected follow up data provided by GPs based on medical records.

It was discovered that 99.4% of people who had bowel cancer had some form of bleeding.

Besides rectal bleeding, no other single symptom was found to be an accurate indicator of bowel cancer. Instead, the presence of multiple symptoms is needed.

Combination symptoms to watch out for

It is extremely important to note that whilst rectal bleeding in isolation can be a decisive indicator of bowel cancer, in the vast majority of patients who experience rectal bleeding bowel cancer is not the cause. It can also point to less serious problems. A combination of symptoms is usually present in 90% of patients with bowel cancer, according to the NHS.

The most common combination of symptoms to watch out for include:

  • Persistent change in bowel habits
  • Blood in your stools
  • Abdominal pain, bloating, or discomfort
  • Feeling a lump in your tummy
  • Anaemia
  • Weight loss

If you are relieving your bowels more frequently, and your stools are looser and runnier than usual, this could be an indicator of cancer. Changes in bowel habits may be accompanied by abdominal pain.

If you have any of these combination symptoms for a period of three weeks or more, you should seek medical advice as soon as possible.

Bowel cancer risk factors

Research has shown that there are some risk factors that may make you more susceptible. The main risk factors include:

  • Older age
  • Genetics
  • Eating high volumes of processed and super processed foods processed foods
  • Obesity
  • Alcohol in excess

If you have any of these risk factors, combined with the symptoms of bowel cancer, it is important to get checked by a medical professional.

Bowel cancer is best treated as early as possible. So, if you have any concerns and would like to receive an accurate diagnosis, book an appointment with Mr Michael Stellakis today.