Spot the symptoms of bowel cancer

A Bowel cancer charity warns of alarmingly low symptom awareness in the South East for the UK’s second biggest cancer killer.

More than a fifth of residents in Essex only named one of the five most common bowel cancer symptoms and four in 10 people were not aware of any symptoms at all, according to a poll of 4,000 UK adults commissioned by Bowel Cancer UK and Beating Bowel Cancer.

Stephen Browne, 50, from London, was diagnosed with stage 1 bowel cancer at the age of 45. He says: “I had experienced rectal bleeding and stomach pain but had been diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome many years previously. Once I went to my GP, I was referred immediately.

“Fortunately, my cancer had not spread and I didn’t need follow-up chemotherapy. I spent some time at home recovering from keyhole surgery to remove the cancer. I was supported very well by my family and I started a phased return to work just a few months later.”

The most recognisable bowel cancer symptom, which nearly half of people identified, is spotting blood when you go for a poo (either from your bottom or in your poo).

The other four symptoms of bowel cancer have an alarmingly low rate of awareness, change of bowel habit, pain or lump in your tummy, extreme weight loss, unexplained tiredness/fatigue.

In April alone nearly 3,500 people will be diagnosed with bowel cancer and over 1,300 people will die of the disease. Being aware of key symptoms and visiting your GP if things don’t feel right can help increase chances of an early diagnosis.

Bowel cancer is treatable and curable, especially if diagnosed early. Nearly everyone diagnosed at the earliest stage will survive bowel cancer but this drops significantly as the disease develops. Early diagnosis really does save lives, but only around 15% of people are diagnosed at the earliest stage of the disease.

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