Bowel cancer is the second biggest cause of cancer death in the UK. Some of the symptoms of the disease can be easily mistaken for other conditions, while others are more obvious.
The bowels refer to the lower part of the digestive system – including the colon and the rectum.
When cancer springs up in the bowels, it can cause symptoms similar to the symptoms of many other cancers such as fatigue and weakness, and weight loss.
But since it also messes up the function of this specific digestive organ, it can also have symptoms that are more unusual.
One symptom that has been found among bowel cancer patients is “anal mucus secretion”.
The health body also recognises that it can cause a “change in bowel movements over several weeks”, alternating from constipation to diarrhoea for example.
Although its symptoms are uncommon among most cancers, they could also be caused by other conditions including irritable bowel syndrome, and inflammation of the stomach lining.
It’s worth noting that “bowel cancer is only rarely the cause, especially in people under the age of 40,” according to InformedHealth.
Regardless, you should visit your GP if you have symptoms of bowel cancer that last three weeks or longer, according to the NHS.
The health body suggests another possible symptom: bloating that is always brought on by eating.
If you visit the GP with symptoms of bowel cancer, and you are thought to be at risk of the disease, they will carry out a digital rectal examination.
This is used to check if there are any lumps in your tummy or rectum.
The NHS adds: “The tests can be uncomfortable, and many people find an examination of their bottom a bit embarrassing, but they take less than a minute.”
Health professionals may also offer a colonoscopy – an examination of the large bowel using a colonoscope. A colonoscope is a thin, tube-like tool that has a viewing lens.
Bowel cancer can prevent digestion from passing through the bowel – called bowel obstruction.
This can cause the following symptoms: