Bowel cancer: Dr Philippa Kaye lists the symptoms
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Cancer doesn’t always rear its ugly head in the early stages. You might expect unmissable red flag signs that will make the deadly condition easy to notice but that’s not always the case. Steve Clark, who was 49 when he was diagnosed with bowel cancer, only experienced “subtle” signs when going to the loo.
Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, is considered the fourth most common cancer type in the UK, claiming more than 16,000 lives each year.
The position of the pesky cancerous tumour means that symptoms often crop up in your tummy and on the loo.
While stomach problems can signal a variety of non-cancerous conditions such as food intolerance or coeliac disease, Steve’s “subtle” symptoms in this area turned out to be bowel cancer.
Steve from Caversham told Bowel Cancer UK: “In 2013, I was diagnosed with bowel cancer. At the time I was fit and healthy, I trained six days a week in the gym, did 10k races and practiced yoga and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).
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“My symptoms were very subtle. I had started to go to the toilet more often – eventually up to 12 times a day.
“However, there was no pain, only a very little blood occasionally and no tiredness.
“Initially, I thought it was food intolerance and changed my diet.
“Nothing worked and I started to feel tired so I went to my GP for the first time in seven years.”
Symptoms like going to the loo “more often” and spotting blood in your poo are tell-tale signs of bowel cancer.
According to the NHS, experiencing persistent blood in your poo that happens “for no obvious reason” or is linked to a change in bowel habit could be a red flag.
Furthermore, having to visit the loo more often can also be accompanied by poo that has become runnier.
Other warning signs of bowel cancer can include:
- Persistent lower tummy pain
- Bloating or discomfort that’s always caused by eating
- Loss of appetite or unintentional weight loss.
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The NHS advises seeing a GP if you have any of these symptoms of bowel cancer for three weeks or more.
Following stool and blood tests, Steve was sent for a colonoscopy and a scan which confirmed the cancer diagnosis.
What’s worse, the cancer has spread to his liver and lungs. Steve said: “I was so shocked but my doctor was very positive.
“He really gave me confidence because he immediately talked about what they were going to do to tackle it and how aggressive they could be with treatment because I was so healthy and fit.”
While Steve’s condition has been since classed as “incurable”, he doesn’t view this as the end.
He added: “It’s my stimulus to make the most of things and enjoy my life.
“I’ve learnt that a diagnosis of stage 4 cancer doesn’t have to mean the end of your life, it can be the reason to start living it.”
Steve is now on palliative care, which focuses on making patients as comfortable as possible by managing their pain and other distressing symptoms.
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