The ‘most common’ bowel cancer symptom

Merlin Griffiths says he is 'doing well' after Bowel cancer diagnosis

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According to Doctor Richard Roope of Cancer Research UK: “Bowel cancer can be difficult to diagnose because it can share symptoms with diseases other than cancer.

“The most common symptom recorded for women in the study before they were diagnosed with cancer was stomach pain, which is usually associated with other women’s health conditions.

“This could explain why some men were diagnosed with colon cancer earlier, as stomach pains don’t have as many alternative explanations for men as they do for women.

“Sometimes diagnosing cancer is a process of elimination, so other conditions need to be eliminated first which means a longer wait for a cancer diagnosis.”

Doctor Roope added: “A lot has changed since the data used in this study was collected. GPs have been given new guidance to recognise and refer suspected cancers, and work continues to raise public awareness of cancer symptoms.

“Emergency diagnoses remain an issue though and efforts to improve this must continue.”

The study Doctor Roope is referring to is one conducted in 2017. It showed that more than a third of women with bowel cancer were diagnosed after an emergency hospital visit.

This compared to men, for whom the figure was less than a third.

At the time of writing the National Cancer Research Institute, also known as NCRI, said: “Data from 2799 women and 2946 men diagnosed with bowel cancer in England between 2005-2010, was analysed by researchers from University College London, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the University of Exeter and funded by Cancer Research UK and the British Medical Association.

“Of the women diagnosed as an emergency, one in five (20%) had alarm symptoms such as a change in bowel habits or rectal bleeding the year before the emergency diagnosis compared to fewer than one in six (14.5%) men.

“Women were also more likely than men to be diagnosed with a less-serious condition, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), before being diagnosed with cancer.”

The main signs of bowel cancer

The main signs of the disease, say charity Bowel Cancer UK, are:
• Bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your poo
• A persistent and unexplained change in bowel habit
• Unexplained weight loss
• Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
• A pain or lump in your tummy.

On these symptoms, the charity said: “It’s important to know that most people with these symptoms don’t have bowel cancer.

“Other health problems can cause similar symptoms. But if you have any of these, or if things just don’t feel right, go to see your GP.

“You may need to visit your doctor more than once if your symptoms don’t get better.”

They added: “Knowing the symptoms and acting on them as quickly as possible could mean that if you do have bowel cancer, it may be diagnosed earlier when it’s much easier to treat.

“People whose cancer is diagnosed at an early stage have a much higher chance of successful treatment than those whose cancer has become more widespread.

“Don’t be embarrassed and don’t ignore any symptoms.

“Doctors are used to seeing lots of people with bowel problems.”

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