Bowel cancer: Dr Hilary outlines the main symptoms
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Bowel cancer accounts for around 43,000 cancer diagnoses in the UK every year, making it one of the most common forms of the disease. It is also the second most deadly cancer in the region, causing more than 16,500 deaths annually. Therefore, keeping a lookout for any symptoms could potentially save your life.
Also referred to as colorectal cancer, the disease starts in the large bowel – or colon – and the rectum.
As a result many early symptoms are noticeable when using the toilet, such as finding blood in your stools.
But there are other signs to be wary of.
According to Cancer Research UK, one such symptom is a lump on the right side of your abdomen.
It explains: “A lump that your doctor can feel in your back passage or tummy (abdomen), more commonly on the right side.”
Other symptoms of bowel cancer include:
- Bleeding from the back passage (rectum) or blood in your poo
- A change in your normal bowel habit, such as looser poo, pooing more often or constipation
- A feeling of needing to strain in your back passage (as if you need to poo), even after opening your bowels
- Losing weight
- Pain in your abdomen or back passage
- Tiredness and breathlessness.
If you experience any of these symptoms it is worth seeing a GP.
“You should see your doctor if you notice a change that isn’t normal for you or if you have any of the possible signs and symptoms of cancer,” the charity says.
“Even if you’re worried about what the symptom might be, don’t delay seeing them.
“Your worry is unlikely to go away if you don’t make an appointment.
“The symptom might not be due to cancer. But if it is, the earlier it’s picked up the higher the chance of successful treatment.”
The doctor may then need to examine you and might carry out tests including blood tests.
They might then refer you to a specialist if they are concerned.
You could also experience other symptoms if the bowel has become obstructed by the cancer.
These symptoms include:
- Cramping pains in the abdomen
- Feeling bloated
- Constipation and being unable to pass wind
- Being sick.
Cancer Research UK warns: “A bowel obstruction is an emergency.
“You should see your doctor quickly or go to A&E at your nearest hospital if you think you have a bowel obstruction.”
Treatment for bowel cancer will depend on the part of the bowel that is affected as well as how far the cancer has spread.
One of the most common courses of treatment will be surgery, and this can be paired with chemotherapy, radiotherapy or biological treatments on a case-by-case basis.
In some cases early treatment can cure bowel cancer but this is not always possible and it can come back at a later stage.
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