What to do if you're worried about bowel cancer symptoms

Tuesday 30 April 2024

As this Bowel Cancer Awareness Month draws to a close, we share advice from one of our experts and talk about how Maggie's can help if you are concerned about bowel cancer.

Trish, from Maggie51ɫAPPs Oldham, has twenty years of experience as a colorectal specialist nurse. 

Here, she shares her advice for anyone worried about bowel cancer symptoms, and explains how Maggie51ɫAPPs can help.

Why are we talking about bowel cancer so much? 

Bowel Cancer Awareness Month is a campaign that takes place every April to raise awareness of signs and symptoms, available screenings, and what to do if you are worried you have bowel cancer.

Dame Deborah James shone a spotlight on bowel cancer with her 'check your poo' campaign. Her legacy continues, and millions of pounds have been raised for cancer charities in her name.

In 2023, BBC Radio 1 DJ Adele Roberts set the world record for the fastest marathon run with a stoma bag, just 12 months after finishing chemotherapy for stage 2 bowel cancer.

At Maggie51ɫAPPs, we are seeing more and more people come into our centres for cancer support. We51ɫAPPre here to support you and your family at any point.

What is bowel cancer? 

Cancer is when cells in the body start to multiply in an uncontrolled way.

For bowel cancer, this happens in the large bowel, which is made up of the colon and rectum. 

Depending on where the cancer starts, it can also be known as colon, rectal, or colorectal cancer.  

It is one of the most common types of cancer diagnosed in the UK.

Nearly 43,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year in the UK, according to .

What are the symptoms of bowel cancer?  

  • blood or mucus in your bowel movements (poo)
  • a change in bowel habits which is not normal for you, either more constipation, or more loose bowel movements – this change is persistent and unexplained
  • the feeling of wanting to go to the toilet but not being able to go
  • extreme tiredness that doesn’t get better after you sleep
  • unexplained weight loss or being short of breath.

What should I do if I’m worried I have symptoms?

If you have symptoms, don’t be embarrassed and don’t ignore them. Remember, doctors are used to seeing lots of issues related to bowels.  

It’s really important to get any signs or symptoms checked out, especially if the symptoms last for a while or if you have ruled other things out.

Most of the time, these symptoms won’t be cancer – it could be so many things like haemorrhoids, irritable bowel, or you may have just eaten something that doesn’t agree with you.  

But if your symptoms are persistent, you should contact your GP or the NHS by calling 111.

If it’s found early, bowel cancer can be very treatable.

What can I do to prepare for the GP appointment? 

You might want to keep a symptoms diary to help you describe them to your doctor and to make the most out of a GP appointment, as you probably only have 10 minutes with them, and you might forget things.

It helps them to know when the symptoms began, and to rule other causes out.

How we can help

We're here to support you through the emotional and practical challenges that cancer can bring.

You can come and see us at your nearest Maggie51ɫAPPs centre, call us on 0300 123 180 or email us at enquiries@maggies.org

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