Being aware of the symptoms of bowel cancer is the most important part of protecting yourself from the disease.
If you notice any one or more of the higher risk symptoms listed here, it is usually quite safe to watch and wait for up to three weeks. But if the symptoms have not settled down after this time, you should get advice from your GP. He/she will often be able to offer a simple explanation and reassurance once they have taken a history of your symptoms and examined you. The GP will also be able to make a referral to the appropriate person if they feel you should be investigated further.
Most people with these symptoms DO NOT have bowel cancer, but your GP will certainly want to examine you and may refer you or do further tests to rule it out.
Higher risk symptoms:
A change in your bowel habit
Has your normal bowel habit changed? Are you going to the toilet more often or experiencing looser poo (diarrhoea). Do you have constipation, a feeling of fullness or incomplete emptying of your back passage after going to the toilet?
A lump in your abdomen (tummy)
Can you feel a new, unexplained lump in your abdomen (tummy) which doesn’t go away?
Bleeding from the bottom or blood in your poo
Have you noticed bleeding from your bottom with no obvious reason such as local soreness, piles (haemorrhoids) or tears (anal fissures)? Have you tried over the counter remedies, but the condition has not improved?
Unexplained tiredness, dizziness or breathlessness
Do you feel constantly tired, dizzy or breathless? Are you looking paler than usual? These may be signs of anaemia (low iron levels in your blood).
Pain in your abdomen (tummy)
Do you have constant or intermittent pain anywhere in your abdomen? It may be linked to going to the toilet or it might come and go like cramps or colic.
Unexplained weight loss
Have you lost weight without dieting, maybe due to reduced appetite, feeling bloated or sick?