Deborah James discusses 'scary' bowel cancer symptoms
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Cancers are either named after the organ they’ve diseased or their cell type, which is why more than 100 diseases are recognised as cancer. These vary largely in deadliness, but among the most dangerous are lung, prostate and bowel cancer. Giulia Guerrini, lead pharmacist from digital pharmacy www.medino.com, caught up with express.co.uk to weigh in on some common signs of the disease. According to the expert, when bubbles appear in urine, this could be a sign that a bowel tumour has spread to neighbouring tissue.
In the initial stages of bowel cancer, malignant cells are often concentrated in a polyp growing in the inner lining of the colon, which is unlikely to produce symptoms.
What’s more, colorectal polyps can take years to grow into cancer, so symptoms are unlikely to appear imminently but rather in a progressive fashion.
“Over 90 percent of people who have bowel cancer experience at least one symptom before their diagnosis, so everyone will want to be familiar with the signs, common or uncommon, to look out for,” explains Miss Guerrini.
“People might expect constipation to be one of the leading symptoms of bowel cancer, however, constipation is rarely caused by any serious bowel issues.”
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Instead, the most common sign of a tumour is to experience bleeding when passing stool, according to the expert.
“This could be caused by issues like haemorrhoids, so don’t assume blood is an automatic sign of bowel cancer.
“However, blood in stools due to bowel cancer can turn black and thickish, appearing similar to tar.
“Abdominal pain, bloating and cramp are also signs of bowel cancer, which can lead to a decreased appetite and subsequent unintentional weight loss.”
When pain is characteristic of bowel cancer it often is achy or cramp-like or feels similar to bloating.
If the pain is persistent, or if any other changes in bowel movements become chronic, it is advisable to get them checked by a health professional.
“A lot of symptoms of bowel cancer aren’t exclusive to bowel cancer, but if you continue to experience them for a period longer than three weeks then you should contact a pharmacist or your GP,” added Miss Guerrini.
The longer the bowel is left to contend with swelling, the greater the risk of further complications, such as vomiting.
Ms Guerrini added: “Bowel cancer can cause swelling in the abdomen, meaning that any food that you eat goes straight back up.
“If the cancerous tumour spreads to your intestines, you could also experience a fever. If it spreads to your bladder, you might notice air bubbles in your urine.”
A high number of individuals present at least one warning sign prior to diagnosis, but occasionally patients present with no warning signs at all.
Shabab Siddiqi, consultant colorectal surgeon and medical adviser to Bowel Research UK, told express.co.uk: “If there is bowel or rectal cancer present, the most common symptoms are rectal bleeding, diarrhoea or a feeling of fullness down below.
“But someone can have a massive tumour and have literally no symptoms, which is why we advise everyone to take up their opportunity of bowel cancer screening when invited or to discuss any common symptoms with their GP.”
There are several ways people are checked for bowel cancer, and the most effective test is colonoscopy.
The test involves passing a thin tube through the anus, rectum and colon.
When the camera attached to the end of the tube encounters a polyp, this is removed and sent to a lab for further examination.
Testing is particularly important for individuals who have previously had polyps or whose family member has previously been diagnosed with the disease.
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