Bowel cancer: Dr Hilary outlines the main symptoms
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Bowel cancer isn’t always eager to show symptoms. The warning signs that do appear are often vague and subtle. Daisy Fenwick from Essex knows this far too well. The 35-year-old at the time didn’t spot the culprit on the loo like many other bowel cancer patients. Instead, something completely else alerted the mum.
Bowel cancer often rings alarm bells when you visit the loo for a number two but this isn’t the only warning sign of the daunting condition.
In Daisy’s case, a common condition was the first red flag that led to a bowel cancer diagnosis.
She told Bowel Cancer UK: “I went into hospital to get a blood transfusion for severe anaemia.
“My levels were so low I’m not really sure how I was alive, which explains why going upstairs was like a marathon.
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“The doctors seemed a bit puzzled and put it down to heavy periods as I was only 35 so cancer was never mentioned – although it did cross my mind.”
Anaemia describes a condition in which you lack enough healthy red blood cells to carry an adequate amount of oxygen to your body’s tissues.
Leaving you tired and weak, anaemia can be triggered by various causes including deficiencies.
Daisy was prescribed iron tablets to tackle it but the treatment didn’t solve her problems so she kept going to her GP.
Eventually, she was referred for a colonoscopy that revealed a “mass” in her bowel.
She said: “The look on the doctor’s face and the tilt of his head will stay with me forever when he said the words everyone dreads, ‘I’m sorry, you have cancer.’
“I was crushed.”
One of the many symptoms and warning signs of bowel cancer can be anaemia, according to the American Cancer Society.
Bowel cancers can often bleed into your digestive tract, causing blood to crop up in your stool.
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Over time, the blood loss can build up and trigger low red blood cell counts, also known as anaemia.
The NHS also notes that anaemia caused by iron deficiency can indicate whether there’s any bleeding from your bowel that you aren’t aware of, as blood doesn’t always show up in your stool.
According to the health service, the other “main” symptoms of bowel cancer include:
- Persistent change in your bowel habit (having to poo more and your poo may also become more runny)
- Persistent lower abdominal (tummy) pain, bloating or discomfort (always caused by eating)
- Loss of appetite
- Significant unintentional weight loss.
The NHS recommends seeing a GP if you have any of the symptoms of bowel cancer for three weeks or more.
Daisy had to undergo an operation that removed most of her colon as well as chemotherapy.
The woman added: “From the chemo stopping, the results of my scan and bloods came back in the summer, showing I’m cancer free.
“I’m still alive, still smiling, still positive, still full of life.”
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