What to do if you're worried about bowel cancer symptoms

Tuesday 14 June 2022

Bowel cancer is very much in the news at the moment which we know can cause concern. But, we are here to help.

Trish, from Maggie’s Oldham, has twenty years of experience as a colorectal specialist nurse. 

Here, she shares her advice for anyone worried about bowel cancer symptoms, and explains how Maggie’s can help.

Why are we talking about bowel cancer so much? 

Screenings for all types of cancer have been affected by the pandemic, but throughout Dame Deborah James’ life, and through her death, she has shone a spotlight on bowel cancer in particular.

At Maggie’s, we are seeing more and more people come into our centres for cancer support. We’re here to support you and your family at any point.  

What is bowel cancer? 

Cancer forms when cells in the body start to multiply in an uncontrolled way.

For bowel cancer, this happens in the large bowel, which is made up of the colon and rectum. 

Depending on where the cancer starts, it can also be known as colon, rectal, or colorectal cancer.  

It is one of the most common types of cancer diagnosed in the UK. 

Nearly 43,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year in the UK, according to Bowel Cancer UK.

What are the symptoms of bowel cancer?  

  • blood or mucus in your poo
  • a change in bowel habits which is not normal for you, either more constipation, or more loose bowel movements – this change is persistent and unexplained
  • the feeling of wanting to go to the toilet but not being able to go
  • extreme tiredness which doesn’t get better after you sleep
  • unexplained weight loss or being short of breath.

What should I do if I’m worried I have symptoms? 

If you have symptoms, don’t be embarrassed and don’t ignore them. Remember, doctors are used to seeing lots of issues related to bowels.  

It’s really important to get it checked out if the symptoms last for a while, or after you have ruled other things out.

Most of the time, these symptoms won’t be cancer – it could be so many things like haemorrhoids, irritable bowel, or you may have just eaten something that doesn’t agree with you.  

But if your symptoms are persistent, you should contact your GP or the NHS by calling 111.

If it’s found early, bowel cancer can be very treatable. 

What can I do to prepare for the GP appointment? 

You might want to keep a symptoms diary to help you describe them to your doctor and to make the most out of a GP appointment, as you probably only have 10 minutes with them, and you might forget things.

It helps them to know when the symptoms began, and to rule other causes out. 

How we can help

We're here to support you through the emotional and practical challenges cancer can bring: 

Come and see us at your nearest Maggie’s, call us on 0300 123 180 or email us at enquiries@maggies.org

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