Six warning signs of bowel cancer, according to a doctor

Persistent abdominal pain is one of the first warning signs of bowel cancer. (Getty Images)
Persistent abdominal pain is one of the first warning signs of bowel cancer. (Getty Images)

With nearly 42,000 people in the UK diagnosed with bowel cancer each year, it’s important to know the warning signs so that it can be caught as early as possible.

In fact, Cancer Research UK says that nearly 90% of people survive for five or more years following their diagnosis if it’s detected at the earliest stage.

This falls to just 10% of people when it is discovered at its latest stage.

So, what can you do to ensure bowel cancer is detected as early as possible? Dr James Kinross, Colorectal Surgeon at King Edward VII’s Hospital shares six warning signs to know, below.

Change in loo habits

It’s likely you have a rough idea of how many times you poo during the week. It could be anywhere from three times a day, to three times a week – both or anywhere in between is completely normal.

However, if you notice you need to poo more often than normal or you have looser, runnier stools, this could be a sign to head to your GP.

"Bowel movements may also become narrower than usual," Dr Kinross says. "Oftentimes these changes will be related to an external factor such as stress, eating more fibre or a change in diet, but it’s worth getting yourself checked if the problem persists."

Watch: George Alagiah: BBC colleague Jeremy Bowen urges people to check their poo for bowel cancer symptoms after death of newsreader

Blood in your stools

"If you’re noticing blood in your stools, and you don’t suffer from haemorrhoids, it may be a warning sign that something isn’t quite right," Dr Kinross says.

"Normally your doctor will ask you to supply them with a stool sample, and they will use a Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) to uncover any hidden blood in your stool. This will help them assess whether they should investigate potential bowel cancer, or another issue."

Stomach or abdominal pain

Dr Kinross says any persistent abdominal pain, from cramps to discomfort, particularly if its accompanied by bloating, could be a sign of bowel cancer.

"However, many conditions can cause abdominal pain, so further investigation is needed for an accurate diagnosis," he adds.

Female feet standing on electronic scales for weight control on wooden background. The concept of slimming and weight loss
Unexplained weight loss can be a sign of several conditions. (Getty Images)

Unexplained weight loss

"Losing weight unintentionally, without changes in diet or exercise habits, could be a sign of various underlying health issues, including bowel cancer," Dr Kinross says.

A pain or lump in your stomach or back

While a pain or lump in your stomach or back passage is likely to be benign, Dr Kinross says it may indicate a malignant growth.

"With that in mind, you should always have any new lumps, or lumps which have increased in size, checked by your GP," he adds.

Ongoing fatigue or weakness

"Persistent fatigue or weakness that doesn't improve with rest could be a symptom of bowel cancer, especially if it's accompanied by other symptoms such as abdominal pain or unexplained weight loss," Dr Kinross says.

"If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, especially if they persist or worsen over time, it's essential to consult a healthcare professional for further evaluation and diagnosis."

Bowel cancer: Read more