OVER half of Brits don’t know the warning signs when it comes to bowel cancer, research has suggested.
Stomach cramps and changes in your bowel movements are both common symptoms of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and bowel cancer – so how can you spot the difference?
Bowel Cancer is the second biggest killer in the UK taking 16,000 lives every year – but if caught early it is treatable.
IBS is a common condition that affects the digestive system and has many similarities when it comes to the symptoms of bowel cancer.
Around 54 per cent of Brits can’t identify the most prominent bowel cancer symptoms and when asked to select them from a list, 33 per cent didn’t recognise having blood in their stool as a warning sign.
Having blood in your stool is one of the main differences between IBS and bowel cancer.
Almost half of the participants in the study (48 per cent) failed to realise abdominal pain as an indicator of the disease, and over half (55 per cent) didn’t flag changes in bowel habits (e.g. looser stool) as a possible symptom, data from 2,000 UK adults conducted by The Leadership Factor on behalf of ScS found.
Free NHS screening for bowel cancer is only given to people over the age of 60 in England and Wales.
But without knowing the signs, people run the risk of a late diagnosis.
What are the symptoms to look for? Remember “BOWEL”
B – Bleeding
There are several possible causes of bleeding from your bottom, or blood in your poo.
Bright red blood could come from swollen blood vessels, haemorrhoids or piles, in your back passage.
Dark red or black blood could come from your bowel or stomach.
Blood in your stools is one of the key signs of bowel cancer, so it’s important to mention it to your doctor so they can investigate.
O: Obvious change in loo habits
It’s important to tell your GP if you have noticed any changes in your bowel habits, that lasts three weeks or longer.
It’s especially important if you have also noticed signs of blood in your poo.
You might notice you need to go to the loo more often, you might have looser stools or feel like you’re not going enough or fully emptying your bowels.
Don’t be embarrassed, your GP will have heard a lot worse! Speak up and get it checked.
W: Weight loss
This is less common than the other symptoms, but an important one to be aware of. If you’ve lost weight and don’t really know why, it’s worth mentioning to your GP.
You may not feel like eating, feel sick, bloated and not hungry.
E: Extreme tiredness
Bowel cancer that causes bleeding can cause a lack of iron in the body – anaemia.
If you develop anaemia you’re likely to feel tired and your skin might look pale.
L: Lump or pain
As with lots of other forms of cancer, a lump or pain can be a sign of bowel cancer.
It’s most likely you’ll notice a pain or lump in your stomach or back passage.
See your GP if it doesn’t go away, or if it affects how you eat or sleep.
While the above symptoms are related to bowel cancer, some could also cross over to IBS?
What is IBS and what are the symptoms?
Women might be tempted to put IBS symptoms down to your period, there is another offender.
Though it’s commonly dismissed as “women’s troubles” – even wind – irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can prove life-changing.
It can be agonising, causing frequent tummy discomfort, bloating, constipation as well as bouts of diarrhoea.
Around one in four Brits are plagued by IBS, yet many are reluctant to talk about what happens in the confines of the bathroom.
The most common signs a person suffering IBS can experience are:
- stomach pain and cramping, which may be relieved by having a poo
- a change in your bowel habits – such as diarrhoea, constipation, or sometimes both
- bloating and swelling of your stomach
- excessive wind
- occasionally experiencing an urgent need to go to the toilet
- a feeling that you have not fully emptied your bowels after going to the toilet
- passing mucus from your bottom
IBS can also lead to other complications such as a lack of energy, feeling sick or nauseous, pain during sex and social anxiety and depression.
The exact cause of IBS is not known, but many experts believe it is related to an increased sensitivity of the gut.
Having blood in your stool is one of the key signs of bowel cancer and this isn’t present in IBS.
While you will experience swelling or bloating with IBS, with bowel cancer this will be a lump.