Key Bowel Symptoms

These are the Key Symptoms that you should to look out for … plus how you should be investigated if you have them:


1. Having blood with your bowel motions and going more frequently to the loo to pass softer, looser poo - if this persists for more than 4 weeks it should be investigated at any age but especially over 40 by a short 5 minute examination in outpatients without sedation and with simple bowel cleaning - known as “flexi sig”


2. Persistent rectal bleedingIn people over 50 – it should be investigated by 'flexi sig'  In people below 50 – it should be investigated if this happens for no reasons - no pile symptoms, no constipation and persists for 4 weeks


3. Going more frequently to pass softer/looser poo for more than 4 weeks without bleeding – should be investigated by 'flexi sig' in people over 50 


4. Iron deficiency anaemia found in a blood test done by your doctor All men and women should be investigated by colonoscopy if there is no obvious cause for the iron deficiency anaemia even if they have no bowel symptoms - in most women before the menopause anaemia is due to their periods but if there is any doubt and it keeps coming back after stopping treatment with iron they should have tests to exclude serious disease 


5. Patients with iron deficiency anaemia and one of the three primary symptoms of bowel cancer- 40% can be simply diagnosed by flexi-sig - the rest will need colonoscopy if flexi-sig is normal


Blood tests are cheap – don’t wait for signs of anaemia as there are usually no signs until anaemia is seriously advanced


6. Lump in tummy or bottom felt by doctor – ask your GP to check as you may not be able to feel it! If you have a lump in your tummy you will need a CT scan 


Important:  Most people with bowel cancer are NOT losing weight - do not have extreme tiredness - have symptoms without feeling ill! 


Subtle symptoms and combinations of symptoms are much more important to catch bowel cancer earlier


You may have other signs and symptoms – mucus, pain, discomfort, changes in the shape of your poo.  These are common in other conditions and unless you have at least one of the above key symptoms and signs - it is highly unlikely you have any serious condition of your bowel.


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