Bowel cancer: Dr Philippa Kaye lists the symptoms
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The location of bowel cancer tumours means symptoms often crop up in your tummy. However, many other non-cancerous conditions, ranging from coeliac disease to irritable bowel syndrome, can present in a similar way. This is something Ryan McDonald, who was eventually diagnosed with bowel cancer aged 37, knows far too well.
From pain in your tummy to tiredness, bowel cancer symptoms don’t necessarily feel alarming.
However, it’s important to pay attention to any unusual changes in your body so you don’t let serious problems slip under the radar.
Ryan McDonald, from Manchester, didn’t hesitate to visit his doctor after five warning signs appeared.
He told Bowel Cancer UK: “At the start of 2021 I started to experience a burning sensation in my lower abdomen, irregular bowel movements, bloating, indigestion and was constantly fatigued.
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“I visited my GP; however, I was told it could be irritable bowel syndrome, a gluten intolerance or a coeliac allergy.”
Symptoms like Ryan experienced describe tell-tale signs associated with the deadly condition.
According to the NHS, the “main” symptoms of bowel cancer include:
- Persistent blood in your poo (happens for no obvious reason or is associated with a change in bowel habit)
- Persistent change in your bowel habit (having to poo more and your poo may also become more runny)
- Persistent lower abdominal (tummy) pain, bloating or discomfort (always caused by eating)
- Loss of appetite
- Significant unintentional weight loss.
The health service recommends seeing a GP if you have any of these symptoms for three weeks or more.
Ryan returned to his GP in June 2021 and asked them directly about bowel cancer.
He said: “They advised me they did not think so and it was most likely to be one of the things they had previously suggested.
“I found this hard to believe as I had changed my diet months ago after the last visit to see if it had any impact on my symptoms.”
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It wasn’t until September, when Ryan with his wife and two small children went on holiday, that the pain became so “immense” he ended up in A&E.
“At A&E they gave me a CT scan followed by an emergency colonoscopy where they found a 45mm tumour on my colon,” he said.
He was admitted to a hospital, where he had a successful operation.
Ryan added: “At 37 years old, I can honestly say it’s been the hardest challenge I have ever had to face, but I’ve been told I will not need further treatment such as chemotherapy and they will just watch a spot on my liver.”
How to reduce your risk of bowel cancer
The good news is that scientists believe that around 54 percent of all bowel cancer cases could be “prevented” by leading a healthier lifestyle, according to Bowel Cancer UK.
From a healthy diet to quitting smoking, there are various lifestyle tweaks that could reduce your risk of the deadly condition.
Your diet should focus on reducing your intake of red and processed meat, as this can hike your risk, while upping your fibre game.
The UK Health Security Agency suggests that cutting back on alcohol and exercising regularly could also help.
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