Bowel cancer is one of the most common cancers to be diagnosed in the UK, according to the NHS. It’s a general term for any cancer that develops in the large bowel, and it may sometimes be known as colon or rectal cancer. The early warning signs of bowel cancer can be very subtle, and many people may not be aware that they’re at risk. But you could be at risk of the disease if you often have a painful stomach, it’s been revealed.
Stomach pain or bloating could be a warning sign of bowel cancer, warned the NHS.
The pain may get worse after eating, which may stop patients from eating as much as usual.
You should speak to a doctor straight away if your stomach pain won’t go away, or if it seems to get worse.
“The symptoms of bowel cancer can be subtle and don’t necessarily make you feel ill,” said the NHS.
“However, it’s worth trying simple treatments for a short time to see if they get better.
“Abdominal pain, discomfort or bloating always brought on by eating [could be a sign] – sometimes resulting in a reduction in the amount of food eaten and weight loss.”
You should see a GP if your stomach pain gets much worse over a short space of time, or if you’re losing weight without trying to.
But, if your stomach ache came on very suddenly, and is excruciatingly painful, you should dial 999, or go straight to A&E.
Other than stomach pain, bowel cancer symptoms can include a persistent change to your bowel habits, or finding blood in your stools.
“More than 90 per cent of people with bowel cancer have one of the following combinations of symptoms,” added the NHS.
“If you have one or more of the symptoms of bowel cancer, and they persist for more than four weeks, you should see your GP.”
You could be at risk of bowel cancer symptoms if you’re passing more stools than normal, or if your poo is looser than expected.
Blood in your stool may appear dark red, or even black. That’s because blood from higher up in the bowel can turn your stools to a darker colour.
If the blood is bright red, it’s more likely to be caused by haemorrhoids – especially it it’s accompanied by an itchiness or pain.
If your changing toilet habits lasts for at least four weeks, you should consider speaking to a doctor, said the NHS.
But, most people with these symptoms don’t have bowel cancer. They’re more likely to be caused by something less serious, including constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, or Crohn’s disease.