Every day, there is an opportunity to spot irregularities when it comes to your bathroom habits; irregularities could be telling signs of bowel cancer. Firstly, it’s a good idea to be aware of the texture of your faeces. Looking into the toilet bowl, before flushing, notice if the texture seems “looser” than usual. The charity Bowel Cancer UK stated that “you may have looser poo and may need to poo more often than normal”.
Another possible indication of bowel cancer is feeling as though you are not fully emptying your bowel each time you go to the toilet.
Any “persistent and unexplained” changes in bowel habits, including loose textured stools, should be noted down.
While it can be embarrassing to speak to the doctor about your bowel habits, doctors are not fazed.
It is their duty to care for their patients, which includes checking for bowel cancer if warning signs are apparent.
Other warning signs of bowel cancer can include rectal bleeding, unexplained weight loss, feeling of fatigue, and/or a pain or lump in the stomach area.
The charity said: “Before you go to your doctor, make a note of any changes in your bowel habits or any other symptoms.
“See your GP within three weeks of noticing any change in your bowels. If you have any bleeding from the opening of your back passage (anus) you should see your GP straight away.”
Be prepared that your doctor may examine you to see if there any cancerous lumps or tender areas.
As part of the examination, your doctor might arrange a blood test check if the liver and kidneys are working properly.
“Even if you have not noticed any blood in your poo yourself, your GP may arrange a test, such as a colonoscopy, to check that there is no hidden blood in your poo,” the charity added.
If you are referred to a hospital, you can expect to be seen within two weeks of your original doctor’s appointment.
“Most people who are referred to hospital don’t have cancer,” the charity reassured.
A hospital referral, however, will give you the best chance of successful treatment if you do have cancer.
An outpatient appointment might involve an endoscopy (a small, thin tube with a camera to look inside the body) or a virtual colonoscopy.
There are several types of endoscopy, such as a flexible sigmoidoscopy that looks inside of the rectum.
The flexible sigmoidoscopy might also involve a medical specialist taking a biopsy to check for cancer.
To enable the doctor or nurse to see the bowel lining clearly via the flexible sigmoidoscopy, a bowel preparation will be needed beforehand.
A bowel preparation will involve an enema, which is a medicine given straight into the back passage, on the day of the test.
If you are anxious about the procedure, you can ask whether or not you can be sedated.
For more information on procedures involved in bowel cancer screening, visit Bowel Cancer UK.