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On Monday, BBC podcast host Deborah James made the heartbreaking announcement that she would be moving to “hospice at home care” after being diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2016. Bowel cancer is the “fourth most common cancer in the UK” and “the second biggest cancer killer”, according to Bowel Cancer UK.
Nearly 43,000 people are diagnosed with the disease every year, and around 268,000 people are living in the UK with bowel cancer.
However, catching it early is the best chance of successfully treating the disease.
Bowel Cancer UK states: “Bowel cancer is very treatable but the earlier it’s diagnosed, the easier it is to treat.
“People whose cancer is diagnosed at an early stage have a much higher chance of successful treatment than those whose cancer has become more widespread.
“If you have any symptoms, don’t be embarrassed and don’t ignore them. Doctors are used to seeing lots of people with bowel problems.”
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A persistent and unexplained change in bowel habit
If you notice an ongoing change in your regular bowel habits, especially any signs of blood, you should tell your GP.
Bowel Cancer UK states: “You may have looser poo and you may need to poo more often than normal.
“Or you may feel as though you’re not going to the toilet often enough or you might feel as though you’re not fully emptying your bowels.”
Unexplained weight loss
Weight loss is a “less common” symptom, but can still arise in people with bowel cancer, especially if they are feeling sick or bloated.
A lack of appetite can also signify bowel cancer.
Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
Bowel cancer may lead to a lack of iron in the body, which can result in anaemia and the symptoms associated.
As well as feeling tired, your skin may also look pale.
A pain or lump in your tummy
As with many forms of cancer, if you notice a lump it is imperative you tell your GP.
Bowel Cancer UK explains: “You may have pain or a lump in your stomach area (abdomen) or back passage.”
If you do experience on or more of these symptoms, you should try not to panic.
As the bowel cancer charity explains, “most people” with these symptoms do not have bowel cancer.
Other health problems can cause similar symptoms, so the best way to ease your worries is by visiting a GP.