Bowel cancer expert shares the early symptoms of the life-threatening disease

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To make sure that people are aware of the subtle symptoms of bowel cancer, Dr Nikita Patel listed some of the early symptoms.

As bowel cancer can present in a number of different ways, Dr Patel pointed out that the tumour can lead to “unexplained change in bowel habit”.

Expanding on what this means, Dr Patel clarified with an example, such as “going to open your bowels more often or becoming more constipated”.

Also, take note if you see blood in your faeces, or if there is a lump in your tummy.

Additional signs of bowel cancer could include an unexplained loss of appetite or weight loss.

The development of anaemia could also be a consequence of a growing tumour in the bowel.

“If you have one or more of the above symptoms, it’s worth visiting your GP to discuss in more detail,” said Dr Patel.

Dr Patel cautioned: “Bowel cancer symptoms can sometimes be confused with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) as the symptoms can be quite hard to distinguish.

“It’s important to keep track of changes in your bowels and consult your GP if you’re worried about anything.

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“Your GP may ask you to keep a diary of your symptoms and/or request further tests for you before getting to a diagnosis.”

A stool sample might be requested, which is then sent off to the laboratory.

“It usually takes a few days to get the results back,” said Dr Patel.

Describing the risk of developing bowel cancer as “complex”, there is one surefire way to reduce your risk, which is leading a healthy lifestyle.

Dr Patel has five of her top recommendations to lower bowel cancer risk.

  • Stop smoking
  • Cut back alcohol intake
  • Eat fibre-rich foods
  • Avoid processed meats and limit eating red meat
  • Maintain a healthy weight.

The NHS offers bowel cancer screening checks to everyone aged 60 to 74.

Dr Nikita Patel is the Associate Medical Director and GP at Vitality.

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