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5 Warning Signs Of Bowel Cancer That Should Not Be Ignored

06th, Feb 2024

Bowel cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer diagnosed in the UK, with approximately 40,000 new cases being diagnosed each year and it is the 2nd most common cancer in Northern Ireland. In this blog we explore some of the main warning signs and symptoms of bowel cancer to look out for with Mr Damian McKay, Consultant General & Colorectal Surgeon.

- Persistent Changes in Bowel Habits

One of the earliest and most common warning signs of bowel cancer is a persistent and unexplained change in bowel habits, particularly to looser stools which persist for four weeks or more.

- Blood in Stool

The presence of blood in the stool, whether it’s visible or detected through a faecal immunochemical test, can be an alarming indicator of bowel cancer. Blood may appear as bright red or darker stools. It is essential not to dismiss any unexplained bleeding and seek medical attention promptly.

‘The greatest leap, in terms of detecting bowel cancer in patients with symptoms in the general population, is the use of FIT (Faecal Immunochemical Tests). These test for minute amounts of blood in the stool and will detect the vast majority of cancers in those tested. Getting GP's access to these tests and giving patients a clear pathway to them will bring better detection of cases hopefully at an earlier stage.’Mr Damian McKay, Consultant General & Colorectal Surgeon.

- A Pain or Lump in your Tummy

Persistent abdominal discomfort, cramps, or pain that is unrelated to other conditions, such as gas or indigestion should raise concerns. Bowel cancer can cause discomfort as it grows and affects the surrounding tissues. If the pain persists or worsens over time, consulting a healthcare professional is imperative.

- Unexplained Weight Loss & Loss of Appetite

Unexplained weight loss, especially if it occurs rapidly may be a waning sign of various health issues including bowel cancer. As the cancer progresses it can lead to a decrease in appetite and unintentional weight loss. Pay attention to changes in your weight, and consult a healthcare provider if you notice significant, unexplained fluctuations.

- Fatigue & Weakness

Persistent fatigue and weakness that doesn’t improve with rest could be indicative of bowel cancer. As the cancer progresses, it can cause anaemia, leading to reduced red blood cell count and subsequent fatigue. If you find yourself feeling unusually tired despite adequate rest, it’s essential to investigate the underlying cause.

‘We would also have patients who have gone to their doctor for another reason and are found to be anaemic. So patients who have what we would call an iron deficiency anaemia because there are various different types of anaemic which means your blood count is too low. Those patients we would investigate on a red-flag basis as well.’ - Mr Damian McKay, Consultant General & Colorectal Surgeon.

National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

This March, find out how you can get involved to help raise awareness of bowel cancer. Visit Bowel Cancer UK


Scopes & Hope! Navigating Red Flag GI Symptoms with Mr McKay, Consultant Colorectal Surgeon

Mr Damian McKay, Consultant General & Colorectal Surgeon offers advice on the main signs and symptoms of lower GI and Colorectal Cancer.

View Podcast

Get in touch

For more information on bowel cancer, symptoms, factors that increase your risk and how you can access Kingsbridge Cancer Diagnostics Clinic, please click here.

At Kingsbridge Diagnostic & Treatment Centre we aim to see patients as quickly as possible, so we have introduced a 7 day referral pathway for red flag cases. If you have a concern about any of the symptoms described above, please contact your GP or text BOOK ENDO to 66777 for more information about how you can gain rapid access to Colonoscopy procedures.

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