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Spotting the symptoms of bowel cancer

View profile for Laura Owen
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Spotting the symptoms of bowel cancer

It may often still be considered a taboo subject in society, but with the recent news that BBC Radio 1’s Adele Roberts, 42 has been diagnosed with bowel cancer, what are the symptoms to look out for?

  • A change in your bowel habit for three weeks or more, this could be that you are going to the toilet more often, or that you have noticed a change in the consistency of your stools
  • Blood in your stools, especially in the absence of piles (haemorrhoids)
  • Abdominal pain, tenderness or bloating after eating
  • Losing weight unintentionally
  • Fatigue

If you are suffering from these symptoms and are concerned, see your GP as soon as possible. They will be able to examine you and make a two week suspected cancer pathway referral for colorectal cancer (an appointment for you to be seen within two weeks of the referral being made) if they consider that your symptoms may be due to bowel cancer. 

Under guidelines that GPs should adhere to (The National Institute for Health and Care Guidance ‘NICE’ Guidelines) they must refer you under the two week suspected cancer pathway referral for colorectal cancer if:

  • You are aged 40 and over with unexplained weight loss and abdominal pain or
  • You are aged 50 and over with unexplained rectal bleeding or
  • You are aged 60 and over with:
    • iron‑deficiency anaemia or
    • changes in your bowel habit, or
  • tests show hidden blood in your stools.

GPs should consider a two week suspected cancer pathway referral for colorectal cancer in patients over the age of 18 with a rectal or abdominal mass. 

GPs should also consider a suspected cancer pathway referral for colorectal cancer in adults aged under 50 with rectal bleeding and any of the following unexplained symptoms or findings:

  • abdominal pain
  • change in bowel habit
  • weight loss
  • iron‑deficiency anaemia.

Going to your GP to report these symptoms does not mean that you have colorectal cancer.  There may be another reason entirely for your symptoms. If it is cancer though, the earlier it is diagnosed, the higher the chance you stand of it being curable. As Adele herself has told her followers on Instagram, ‘Please make sure you get checked out if you have any concerns. The sooner you’re able to see your GP or talk to someone the sooner you can get help…Early detection can save your life.’

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