‘I’m a bowel cancer expert – here are five signs you should contact your GP’

Bowel cancer is one of the most common cancers in the UK, but like all cancers, there’s currently no cure. An earlier diagnosis is key to survival efforts so spotting symptoms as early as possible is key.

Anna, a Bowel Cancer Screening Practitioner for Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust, took to the trust’s TikTok to share the warning signs to look out for.

 Symptoms of bowel cancer

  • Bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your poo
  • A persistent and unexplained change in bowel habit
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
  • A pain or lump in your tummy

Anna also urged: “If you have these symptoms contact your GP.”

Blood in your poo

Blood in your poo can be a sign of bowel cancer but is often due to other causes, such as haemorrhoids, or piles.

Cancer Research UK explains: “Most often, blood in the stool is from piles (haemorrhoids), especially if it is bright red, fresh blood. Piles are like swollen veins in the back passage.

“These veins are fragile and can easily get damaged when you have a poo, causing a little bleed.

“Blood from higher up in the bowel doesn’t look bright red. It goes dark red or black and can make your poo look like tar. This type of bleeding can be a sign of cancer higher up the bowel. Or it could be from a bleeding stomach ulcer for example.”

Changes in bowel habits

A persistent change in bowel habit can include going to the toilet more often and passing loose stools, usually together with blood on or in stools, says the NHS.

Unexplained weight loss

Weight loss is more common in some cancer types. According to Cancer Research UK, about 60 out of 100 people with lung cancer (60 percent) have a loss of appetite and significant weight loss at the time of their diagnosis.

In people with upper gastrointestinal cancer, this includes small bowel cancer, this number is 80 out of 100 people (80 percent).

Tiredness for no obvious reason

Bowel cancer can lead to a lack of iron in the body, which can cause anaemia – a lack of red blood cells – says Bowel Cancer UK.

The charity adds: “If you have anaemia, you are likely to feel very tired and your skin may look pale.”

A pain or lump in your tummy

A lump could be felt in your back passage or tummy (abdomen), more commonly on the right side, says Cancer Research UK.

The NHS says if you have any symptoms of bowel cancer for three weeks or more you should see a GP.

If your poo is black or dark red or you have bloody diarrhoea, ask for an urgent GP appointment or get help from NHS 111.

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