Dame Deborah James dies from bowel cancer age 40
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Experts at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust explained: “The bowel is part of the digestive system stretching from the stomach to the anus. It is a hollow tube coiled up in your abdomen, divided into two parts: the small bowel and the large bowel.” A cancerous tumour in the large bowel can lead to a change in toiletry habits. For example, alternating between bouts of diarrhoea, where pieces of faeces will be splattered in the loo – and the water discoloured – and constipation is a possible sign of cancer.
Also be on the lookout for any droplets of blood that might appear in the toilet bowl.
Bleeding stools, or having mucus on the stool, could be a symptom of bowel cancer.
With a growing cancerous tumour, you may feel as though you can never fully empty your bowels – even after going to the toilet multiple times.
This is because it’s not faeces you are trying to excrete, but a lump of cancerous cells.
There are other, non toilet related, signs of bowel cancer too, such as a “colicky type pain” or vague discomfort in the abdomen.
“You may also feel generally unwell, for example listless or tired,” the experts noted.
Such a symptom would be indicative of blood loss from the bowel, which can cause a person to be anaemic, meaning they lack healthy red blood cells.
If you are concerned about ongoing bowel issues, ones that have persisted for three weeks or more, do “see a specialist”.
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When visiting your local NHS doctor to discuss concerns of bowel cancer, a discussion of symptoms and a couple of tests will take place.
A digital rectal examination could be required, in addition to the doctor pressing down on your stomach.
A digital rectal examination may seem off-putting, but checking for bowel cancer is life-saving.
To put your mind at ease, a digital rectal examination involves a quick and painless process.
The trained medical staff, who would have done the same test countless times, will place a gloved finger into the rectum to feel for a cancerous lump.
“They’ll know that some people can feel embarrassed, but it’s a common procedure,” the NHS assured.
You also have the option to request either a female or male doctor to perform the examination.
It is also possible to request for a friend, family member, or another doctor or nurse to also be in the room when it takes place.
If you already suffer from a painful bottom, local anaesthetic can be used to numb the area before the test is done.
Bear in mind that the digital rectal examination takes less than a minute.
Some people might be booked in for a blood test or might be asked to provide a poo sample for testing at a later date.
“Your poo will be checked for tiny amounts of blood, which could be a sign of bowel cancer,” the NHS explained.
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