Bowel cancer: The ‘red flag’ symptoms include change in bowel habits – how to cut risk

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“As with all cancers, the earlier you catch it, the better,” explained Michael Carson, Senior Litigation Executive at Patient Claim Line. In light of Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, which is just around the corner in April, the expert shared the warning signs of this condition and what patients can do if they have received a delayed diagnosis.

Bowel cancer is considered one of the most “common” cancers in the UK, ranking fourth on the list, according to Bowel Cancer UK.

What’s more, almost 43,000 people receive the bad news of this diagnosis each year in the UK.

The charity reports there are currently around 268,000 people living with this condition.

Carson urged: “It’s important to know the warning signs and symptoms so you can see a GP when necessary.”

What are the red flag symptoms of bowel cancer?

The tricky aspect of symptoms is they can be “subtle” and not “necessarily make you feel ill”, the NHS explains.

That’s why knowing what to look for can help. Carson said: “There are three main symptoms. 

“These are blood in your poo, although often there is not enough to be seen.

“A change in bowel habits, especially needing to poo more or having almost diarrhoea a lot, and pains in the stomach or bloating, especially after eating. 

“Another sign can also be unexpected or unintended weight loss.”

The health service recommends seeing a GP if you suffer from any of these symptoms for three weeks or more.

The expert shared that once your doctor recognises these signs as the symptoms of bowel cancer, you should be referred to a specialist.

He noted: “A referral to a bowel cancer specialist is needed, and investigations should be undertaken. 

“These might include a flexible sigmoidoscopy, a colonoscopy or a CT scan.”

How to reduce the risk of bowel cancer?

When it comes to cutting your risk, the usual suspects in the form of diet step in. 

Carson explained: “Eat healthy with lots of vegetables and a diet high in fibre, don’t smoke, avoid alcohol or do not exceed the recommended limits, take regular exercise and keep weight within a normal BMI range.”

He also pointed out the factors that might be boosting your risk. These are pretty much “the same as with any cancer”.

“Smoking, an unhealthy diet high in processed meat, a lack of exercise, and alcohol will all increase the risk,” Carson noted.

What’s worse, some risk factors are out of your control. These include:

  • Crohn’s disease
  • Familial adenomatous polyposis (an inherited disorder characterised by cancer of the large intestine).

What are my legal rights if I’ve experienced a delayed diagnosis?

Carson said: “If any delay or treatment was unreasonable and negligent, then you could be entitled to compensation.”

If you or someone you love has experienced a delayed bowel cancer diagnosis or a doctor has missed the symptoms of bowel cancer, then Patient Claim Line can help. Speak to a member of their legal team for free on 0330 107 5311 or visit their website. 


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