How often do you poo in the day? Doctor issues serious bowel cancer warning

Dr Hilary Jones discusses bowel cancer awareness acronym

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Bowel cancer affects the large bowel, which is part of the digestive symptom. When cancerous cells multiply uncontrollably in this part of the body, it can cause disruptions to your bowel movements. If you’re noticing a change in the frequency of your bowel movements, it could be a telltale sign of bowel cancer, according to Dr Rachel Ward.

“It is normal to move your bowels between three times per week and three times per day,” explained Dr Ward.

While there is not a standardised number that is concerning, it is knowing what is normal for you, she said.

“A persistent change in the frequency of your bowel movement can be an indicator of bowel cancer,” explained Dr Ward.

“For example, if you normally move your bowels one per day but notice that for the last month you have been going three times per day, you should speak to your GP.”

Dr Ward continued: “Equally you might notice that you are going less often or feel you cannot completely empty your bowels.”

There are a number of other signs of bowel cancer that you should be aware of.

“Blood in your stool, bleeding from the back passage, softer/looser stool, weight loss, pain in the tummy and general tiredness can also be symptoms of bowel cancer,” warned Dr Ward.

How to respond

According to the NHS, these symptoms should be taken more seriously as you get older and when they persist despite simple treatments.

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“See a GP If you have any of the symptoms of bowel cancer for three weeks or more,” advises the NHS.

The GP may decide to:

  • Examine your tummy and bottom to make sure you have no lumps
  • Arrange for a simple blood test to check for iron deficiency anaemia – this can show whether there’s any bleeding from your bowel that you have not been aware of
  • Arrange for you to have a simple test in hospital to make sure there’s no serious cause of your symptoms.

The NHS adds: “Make sure you see a GP if your symptoms persist or keep coming back after stopping treatment, regardless of their severity or your age.

“You’ll probably be referred to a hospital.”

Am I at risk?

The exact cause of bowel cancer is unknown. However, research has shown several factors may make you more likely to develop it.

Having one or more risk factors doesn’t mean that you will definitely get bowel cancer.

Many studies have shown that eating lots of red and processed meat increases the risk of bowel cancer.

Processed meat is any meat that has been treated to preserve it and/or add flavour – for example, bacon, salami, sausages, canned meat, or chicken nuggets.

According to Cancer Research UK, consuming these unhealthy foods are estimated to account for around 13 out of 100 bowel cancer cases.

The government recommends that people eating more than 90g of red and processed meat a day should reduce it to 70g or less. 70g is the cooked weight.

A linked risk factor is being overweight.

“It is estimated that 11 out of 100 bowel cancers (11 percent) in the UK are linked to being overweight or obese,” warns Cancer Research UK.

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