symptoms of bowel cancer

Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer, with approximately 43,000 people diagnosed with the disease each year in the UK. According to Bowel Cancer UK, a total of 268,000 Brits are currently living with the condition.

Like any form of cancer, catching it early is key to improving survival rates. As April marks Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, here we look at some of the red flags to watch out for if you want to detect the condition early.

Bowel cancer symptoms to watch out for

If you want to catch this disease early, it’s important to be aware of the main symptoms of bowel cancer to watch out for. Let’s look at the most common symptoms of the disease.

Persistent changes in bowel habit: This is one of the most common signs of bowel cancer. It could be that you need to empty your bowels more frequently than usual, or you may suffer with constant diarrhoea or looser poo. If the changes in your bowel habit last more than  two weeks, it’s a good idea to seek advice from your doctor.

Stomach pain/bloating: Abdominal pain is a less common symptom of bowel cancer. You may start to experience stomach cramps after going to the toilet, as well as after you have eaten.

Blood in your stools: Finding blood in your stools can understandably be worrying. It is one of the most common symptoms of bowel cancer to watch out for. While it doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer, any signs of blood in your stools should be investigated by a doctor. This is particularly important if the blood is dark.

Tenesmus: This is a persistent feeling of want to open your bowels and sometimes can occur with bowel cancer.

Bear in mind that in most cases these symptoms have far more common less sinister causes so don’t panic if you develop any of them. Do get checked out though.

Also be aware that unexplained weight loss or anaemia (low blood count) are sometimes associated with bowel cancer. If you notice weight loss you should report it to your GP. Depending on what type of anaemia you have your GP may refer you on for further testing or to a specialist like Mr Stellakis.

Bowel cancer risk factors

As well as understanding the symptoms of bowel cancer, it’s also worth being aware of the risk factors. Patients with the highest risk of developing the disease include those who:

  • Are 50 or over
  • Have a family history of bowel cancer
  • Have a long-term inflammatory disease such as Ulcerative Colitis
  • Lead an unhealthy lifestyle
  • Obesity
  • Excess alcohol
  • Have Type 2 Diabetes

While not all of these risk factors can be prevented, it is possible to lower the risk by making healthier lifestyle choices. Also, receiving regular screening if you do have an increased risk of the disease can help to catch it early.

If you are concerned about your bowel cancer risk, seek advice from your doctor. You can also arrange to undergo bowel cancer screening to provide peace of mind and to help catch it early if it does develop.