Try these quick steps to see if your symptoms might be important. Most people with bowel cancer symptoms usually don’t look ill – so think about any subtle symptoms too. But remember – most symptoms won’t turn out to be cancer.
How old are you? Most people diagnosed with bowel cancer are age 60 plus. So the older you are, the more seriously you should take your symptoms. But younger people get bowel cancer too
Have your bowel habits changed recently?
Are you going to the loo more often than is normal for you or trying to go with not much happening? Or could your “poo” be looser stools, more diarrhea-like? What about bleeding? If you look down the loo – have you seen any bleeding from the bottom?
This combination of symptoms can be very important – see your GP if they go on for more than 4 weeks – you should be referred to hospital especially if you are over 40
But be reassured - most people, even with these important symptoms, won't have cancer
Bleeding from the bottom – with no change in the way your bowels work?
One in five of us has bleeding every year - usually with other signs and symptoms - itching/lumps/pain/straining – if you have no reason for your bleeding and it comes and goes without a cause or is a nuisance, see your GP especially if you are over 50
Change in the way your bowels work without bleeding?
If you are going to the loo more often to open your bowels, or trying to go and not much is happening, see your GP especially if you are over 50. Same if your “poo” is looser day after day for 4 weeks. You could try changing your diet before you see the GP and/or have a chat with a pharmacist about products you could try. If symptoms still persist for more than a few weeks, scoot along to your GP
Told you're anaemic?
Iron deficiency anaemia in all men should be investigated for bowel cancer and in women after the menopause. Borderline anaemia with symptoms should be investigated. Persistent tiredness/losing weight are distressing but not among the most important signs/symptoms of bowel cancer
Is it in your family history?
If you have bowel symptoms, find out if there is any bowel cancer in your family – two close blood relatives or one younger (under 45) affected, see your GP for genetic advice
Bowel symptoms are incredibly common - most come and go without getting worse. Symptoms which persist day after day for a few weeks and get worse – see your GP
The reassuring news – for most of us bowel cancer is preventable, treatable and beatable.
Don’t ignore important symptoms.
Do something about them – and fast!