If you notice troublesome toilet issues, do not be embarrassed to speak to a medical professional – it could save your life. But how do you know what to report? One issue, as pointed out by leading charity Macmillan Cancer Support is a spot of blood in faces. The blood could appear “bright red or dark”, and it is either spotted in the toilet bowl or when wiping.
Another possible clue that a growing tumour is in the bowel is when you feel like you are unable to release yourself properly.
Expanding on this point, Macmillan said a sign of bowel cancer is “feeling that you have not emptied your bowel properly after you poo”.
This means you have released yourself, but still feel as though more could be excreted.
There may also be a “change in your normal bowel habit” that lasts longer for three weeks.
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This could be bouts of constipation or diarrhoea, which may be accompanied by other signs of cancer.
Such signs include unexplained weight loss, stomach pain, or pain in your back passage.
Furthermore, there could be unexplained fatigue, dizziness, or breathlessness.
Macmillan added: “These symptoms can be caused by conditions other than bowel cancer, but you should always have them checked by your doctor.”
Am I at risk of bowel cancer?
While the exact cause of the malignant tumour is not known, there are factors that increase a person’s risk of developing the disease.
For example, Bowel Cancer UK – another leading charity – warned that simply older age could be a risk factor.
People aged 50 and older are at increased risk of bowel cancer, but free NHS screening begins from the age of 56 (in England).
Everyone who is registered to a GP and lives in England will automatically be sent a bowel cancer screening kit every two years.
If you are experiencing bowel issues at 50 – or younger – you should still make an appointment with a doctor if the symptoms persist for three weeks or more.
This is even more critical if you have had a family member who also had bowel disease.
A family history of bowel cancer is a risk factor for the disease, as well as having long-standing bowel conditions.
Examples include Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, or a history of non-cancerous growth – known as polyps – in the bowel.
Leading an “unhealthy lifestyle” is also a risk factor, but what does this exactly mean?
Elaborating on this risk factor, Bowel Cancer UK stated: “Scientists believe around half (54 percent) of all bowel cancers could be prevented by having a healthier lifestyle.”
To do so, it’s best to avoid red and processed meats, to remain a healthy weight by eating right and exercising, and to be a non-smoker.
Alcohol consumption has also been linked to bowel cancer, so if you become teetotal, you are lowering your risk of the deadly disease.