Bowel cancer symptoms: The ‘persistent’ sign when you go to the toilet – ‘tell your GP’

Dr Hilary Jones discusses bowel cancer awareness acronym

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Bowel cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in the UK, with around 42,900 cases diagnosed each year. The good news is that the condition is treatable and curable “especially if diagnosed early”. Here are the main signs that could help you spot it.

The bowel is the part of your digestive system that is crucial for breaking down food and helping it move along out of your body.

Due to the location of this organ, many symptoms linked to bowel cancer can present when you go to the toilet.

What’s more, spotting the cancer at an early stage offers “a much higher chance of successful treatment”, according to Bowel Cancer UK.

One of the main symptoms of this condition is a persistent change in bowel habits.

Bowel changes can include anything from pooing more often to having looser, runnier poos.

The charity explains that you might feel like you’re not going to the toilet often enough or that you haven’t fully emptied your bowels after having a poo.

They advise: “Tell your GP if you have noticed any persistent and unexplained changes in your bowel habit.”

This is especially important if you experience any bleeding from your bottom or notice blood in your poo.

The problem with spotting symptoms can be the “subtle” nature of warning signs that don’t “necessarily make you feel ill”, according to the NHS.

However, the health service also reports that more than 90 percent of patients with this diagnosis will experience at least one symptom combination.

Apart from the changes in bowel habits, the full list of signs includes:

  • Tummy (abdominal) pain
  • Blood in the poo (without other symptoms of piles, also known as haemorrhoids)
  • Abdominal discomfort 
  • Bloating always brought on by eating 
  • Unexplained weight loss.

The NHS advises seeing a GP when you experience symptoms like these that last for three weeks or more.

Even though these symptoms can signal bowel cancer, most people experiencing these “do not have bowel cancer”, according to the health service.

From piles to coeliac disease, there are other conditions that present these signs as well.

However, you should take these symptoms “more seriously” as you get older or when the symptoms persist.

Once you see your GP about these signs, your doctor might examine you or arrange various tests to find the cause.

Your tummy or bottom might get checked and your GP may also take your blood.

Fortunately, there are different treatments available for targeting bowel cancer, ranging from surgery to targeted therapies.

The impact of the cancer on your everyday life will depend on the stage and the treatment you’re having.

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