Here are the Key Symptoms that you and your doctor should to look out for … plus how you should be investigated if you have them:
1. Going more frequently to the loo to pass softer, looser poo - if this persists for more than 4-6 weeks it should be investigated at any age but especially over 40 by a short 5-minute examination (known as “flexi sig”)
2. Persistent rectal bleeding:
In people over 50 – it should be investigated by 'flexi sig'
In people below 50 – it should be investigated if this happens for no reasons- no pile symptoms, no constipation and persists for 6 weeks
3. Going more frequently to pass softer/looser poo for more than 6 weeks without bleeding – should be investigated by 'flexi sig' in people over 50
4. Iron deficiency anaemia found in a blood test done by your doctor
All men - and women after the menopause - should be investigated by colonoscopy if there is no obvious cause for the iron deficiency anaemia.
Anyone with mild anaemia and important bowel symptoms should also be investigated , usually by a short 3-minute colonoscopy (called a flexible sigmoidoscopy). If the flexi-sig is normal they should then be offered colonoscopy.
Blood tests are cheap - don't wait for signs of anaemia as it only has signs and symptoms if it is very advanced...
5. Lump in tummy or bottom felt by doctor – ask your GP to check as you may not be able to feel it!
Important: Most people with bowel cancer are NOT losing weight nor have extreme tiredness.
Subtle symptoms and combinations of symptoms are much more important to catch bowel cancer earlier.
You may have other signs and symptoms – mucus, pain, discomfort, changes in the shape of your poo – these are common in other conditions and unless you have at least one of the above key symptoms and signs it is highly unlikely you have any serious condition of your bowel.
Important: Bowel cancer can be present for up to 2 years before it manifests with symptoms and or anaemia or a lump in your tummy or back passage. It is now possible to catch it at an early stage in the UK Governments free NHS bowel cancer screening programme – England, Wales & Ireland from age 60, Scotland from age 50 – this finds cancers at an earlier, curable stage and saves lives. This will shortly include a new screening programme for England – a short colonoscopy called flexi-sig – this will be introduced over the next 4 years and could save even more lives – 3,000 a year.