Bowel cancer: Doctor says call GP if you have any of these symptoms

Mr Anwar Owais, a colorectal and general surgeon who has a research degree and is a doctor of medicine in Clinical Nutrition, has revealed five of the most common symptoms of bowel cancer during bowel cancer awareness month.

Mr Owais works at The Ridgeway Hospital in Wroughton, where he meets and examines patients who have one or more symptoms of bowel cancer.

Bowel cancer is currently the third-most common cancer in the UK, with 90% of the patients being 50 years or older.

Mr Owais said: “However recently we have started to see an increased number of younger people diagnosed with the disease.

“It is therefore paramount we raise the awareness of bowel cancer symptoms to encourage early detection across all ages to assist with early diagnosis and treatment. In most cases, it is curable if detected early.”

Having one or two symptoms of bowel cancer does not always mean that you have cancer.

The five most common symptoms of bowel cancer, which are important to look out for, are:

  • Bleeding from the back passage, which is the most important and common symptom of bowel cancer. Bleeding per rectum can be caused by benign diseases, but always best to seek advice and rule out a serious underlying cause
  • Persistent and unexplained change in bowel habits, such as having diarrhoea or constipation.
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Unexplained tiredness, due to anaemia arising from blood loss
  • Having a lump in the abdomen or the back passage, is hard to identify unless you have a flat tummy alongside advanced bowel cancer, this is not very common. However, the most identified lump associated with bowel or anal cancer is a painful lump in the anus.

Mr Owais said: “If a patient ever experiences one or more of the above symptoms, they must not delay reporting it to their GP.

“Most of these symptoms can be vague and can have other explanations for them. Noticing any of these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean that you have bowel cancer.”

He added: “We receive hundreds of referrals every week for patients who have the above symptoms.

“Reassuringly only a small percentage of these patients go on to receive a bowel cancer diagnosis. But every single referral was warranted and every investigation was essential, it is never a waste of my time.”

Mr Owais emphasised by saying: “The earlier we diagnose bowel cancer the more likely patients are to survive it. Thankfully bowel cancer is a treatable and curable condition when detected early.

“The main purpose of this campaign is to spread awareness of bowel cancer and to reinforce that early detection and intervention can save lives. We support all patients with bowel cancer, but it is important that we get to treat the patient early.”

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