Top 10 Symptoms and Signs of Bowel (Colon and Rectum) Cancer
Bowel (colon and rectum) cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer in the UK, with around 41,000 people diagnosed each year. It can be a difficult disease to diagnose, as the symptoms and signs can be very vague. In this blog post, we will discuss the symptoms and signs of bowel cancer, as well as the different screening tests that are available. We will also provide information about surgery and chemotherapy for bowel cancer, and how genetics can play a role in its development.
Top 10 Symptoms and Signs of Bowel Cancer
Bowel cancer can develop without any symptoms, which is why screening tests are so important. However, there are some symptoms and signs that you should be aware of, as they may be an indication of the disease.
Learn the top 10 symptoms and signs so you can seek help if needed
- A change in your bowel habits, such as diarrhoea or constipation that lasts for more than a few weeks
- Blood in your stool
- Stomach pain or cramps that last for more than a few weeks
- Feeling full or bloated after eating, even when you haven't eaten very much
- Losing weight without trying to
- Extreme tiredness (fatigue) for no obvious reason
- A pain or lump in your abdomen
- An increase in mucus in your stool
- rectal bleeding
If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to see your GP as soon as possible. They will be able to carry out some tests to rule out other conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and refer you for further investigation if necessary.
Bowel cancer screening tests
There are two main types of screening tests for bowel cancer: the Faecal Occult Blood test (FIT) and the colonoscopy.
The FIT is a simple test that can be done at home, using a kit that is provided by your GP. This test detects small amounts of blood in your stool, which can be an early sign of bowel cancer. The kit includes a special card that you use to collect a small sample of your stool. This is then sent off to a laboratory for analysis.
If the FIT test is positive, it does not necessarily mean that you have bowel cancer. However, it is important to have further investigations, such as a colonoscopy, to rule out the disease.
A colonoscopy is an examination of the large bowel (colon) and rectum using a thin, flexible camera called a colonoscope. The procedure is usually carried out under sedation, which means you will be awake but won't remember anything about it afterwards. During the procedure, your doctor may take biopsies (samples of tissue) from any areas that look abnormal. These will be sent to a laboratory for analysis.
If you are diagnosed with bowel cancer, the next step is to have surgery to remove the tumour. This can be done laparoscopically (keyhole surgery), which means that only a few small incisions are made in the abdomen. The surgeon will then insert a camera and special instruments through these incisions to remove the tumour. In some cases, open surgery may be necessary, which involves making a larger cut in the abdomen.
After surgery, you may need to have chemotherapy or radiotherapy, or both. Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells, while radiotherapy uses high-energy beams of radiation. These treatments can help to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back after surgery.
Bowel cancer that is diagnosed at an early stage can often be cured. However, if the disease has spread to other parts of the body, it can be difficult to treat. This is why it is so important to be aware of the symptoms and signs of bowel cancer, and to get screened for the disease on a regular basis.
If you are concerned about your risk of developing bowel cancer, you should speak to your GP. They will be able to advise you on the best course of action, based on your individual circumstances. You may also be referred for genetic testing if there is a family history of the disease. This can help to determine whether you are at increased risk of developing bowel cancer and whether you require more frequent screening.
Bowel cancer is a disease that can affect anyone
However, there are some risk factors that can increase your chances of developing the condition. These include:
- Age: The risk of bowel cancer increases with age, with most cases occurring in people over the age of 50.
- Family history: If you have a family member who has had bowel cancer, you are at increased risk of developing the disease.
- Lifestyle factors: Smoking, drinking alcohol and being overweight or obese can all increase your risk of bowel cancer.
If you are concerned about your risk of developing bowel cancer, speak to your GP for advice. They will be able to provide you with information on the best way to reduce your risks, including whether you need to be screened for the disease.
Bowel cancer is a serious disease that can have a significant impact on your health. However, it is important to remember that it is also a very treatable condition, particularly if it is caught early. By being aware of the symptoms and signs of bowel cancer, and getting screened regularly, you can help to ensure that the disease is detected early and treated effectively.
At Oncotrust, our 7-Day Diagnosis Pathway provides rapid affordable tests including digital 3D mammography, ultrasound, biopsy, MRI, PET-CT scanning, and multidisciplinary review. If you are waiting for staging tests (PET-CT, MRI) or are worried you may have symptoms of breast cancer, then make an appointment with our Private GP service or complete the online questionnaire via our Contact Us page.