Bowel cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in the UK, with over 41,000 new cases diagnosed each year. But worryingly, the disease can often go unnoticed for a long time as symptoms are subtle and don’t always make you feel ill. One of the most common symptoms of bowel cancer is a bloated stomach, alongside stomach pain and changes in bowel habits. But, these problems can commonly occur in people on a daily basis for other, less serious reasons. So how do you know if your bloated stomach signals bowel cancer?
According to the NHS, more than 90 per cent of people with bowel cancer will experience at least one of the following three symptoms:
Abdominal pain or bloating
Stomach pain, discomfort or bloating associated with bowel cancer is always brought on by eating, and sometimes results in weight loss.
Bloating and stomach pain can be caused by overeating or eating food which is hard to digest, but if it is persistent, see a GP.
A persistent change in bowel habits
Changes in bowel habits to look out for include needing to go more often, looser stools and tummy pain when going to the toilet.
Changes in bowel habits are more likely to be a sign of IBS or a similar less serious bowel problem, but if they persist it’s vital to see a GP.
Blood in the stools
Blood in the stools is often caused by haemorrhoids, otherwise known as piles, but if no other piles symptoms are present, it could signify cancer.
Other symptoms of piles include an itchy bottom, soreness, redness and swelling around the anus, and a lump hanging down outside of the anus.
Although it’s more likely the above symptoms will be the result of something else other than bowel cancer, the NHS advises seeing a GP if they last for more than four weeks.
“If you have one or more of the symptoms of bowel cancer, and they persist for more than four weeks, you should see your GP,” said the NHS.
The health body advises taking extra note of symptoms in older people, as the disease is most common in people over the age of 60.
However, it can still affect younger people so it’s important to get any potential symptoms checked out whatever your age.
“Make sure you see your doctor if your symptoms persist or keep coming back after stopping treatment, regardless of their severity or your age,” added the NHS.
Last week, BBC journalist Jeremy Bowen revealed a less typical symptom, unrelated to bowel habits, which led to him being diagnosed with bowel cancer last year.