Red flag bowel cancer symptoms to look out for as experts issue urgent warning

By Staff 6 Min Read

April is Bowel Cancer Awareness month in the UK, and health experts have issued a stark warning reminding people to be aware of the symptoms

April has been marked as Bowel Cancer Awareness month across the UK and health experts are sounding the alarm for the public to stay vigilant about the disease’s warning signs.

In Scotland, bowel cancer ranks as the third most prevalent cancer, with NHS Inform revealing that each year, around 4,000 individuals receive a diagnosis. While it typically affects those over 50, it doesn’t discriminate and can affect people of any age. To combat bowel cancer, there are two crucial steps: promptly seek medical advice if symptoms arise, and participate in screening when you’re of age. In England, people between 60-74 years old will be invited for a screening test. In Scotland, that age is 50 to 74 and in Wales 51 to 74.

Early detection through screening can significantly improve treatment outcomes. Screening also serves to identify and remove polyps, which are unusual growths in the bowel that could potentially turn cancerous. Dr Christine McKee, a Public Health Consultant at the Public Health Agency (PHA), emphasised the importance of awareness and screening, saying: “Bowel cancer is one of the most common cancers for both men and women. Being alert to the symptoms of bowel cancer and attending for screening when invited could save your life. The earlier cancer is detected, the better the chances of treatment being successful.

“Bowel cancer is more common in older people, so screening in this age group can save lives by picking up if a person may have bowel cancer early, even when there aren’t any symptoms. We would urge all those who receive a screening test kit to read the information that comes with it, and consider completing and returning the kit.”

What are the symptoms of bowel cancer?

Possible symptoms of bowel cancer can include:

  • blood in your poo
  • looser poo, pooing more often and/or constipation
  • a pain or lump in your tummy
  • feeling more tired than usual for some time
  • losing weight for no obvious reason

Dr McKee added: “The symptoms of bowel cancer can be subtle and don’t necessarily make you feel ill. It is important to remember that there are many causes for these symptoms, and most people experiencing these symptoms do not have bowel cancer.”

“If you are experiencing any of these symptoms for three weeks or longer, please contact your GP. It may turn out to be nothing of concern, but if it is something more serious, detecting it as early as possible can give any treatment you may need the best chance of success.”

Bowel screening involves taking a simple test at home every two years, which looks for hidden blood in your poo, as this could mean a higher chance of bowel cancer, reports the Daily Record. If you’re over the age of 75, you can still take a bowel screening test every two years. However, you’ll need to request a new test kit each time as the Scottish Bowel Screening Centre won’t send you one.

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