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Cancer: Three colours of faeces that could be a sign of a growing tumour in the bowel

Dr Hilary Jones discusses bowel cancer awareness acronym

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Any persistent, unexplained changes in your bowel habits should be reported to your GP; this includes its consistency and frequency for three weeks or more. When it comes to the colouring of faeces, there are certain hues to be wary of. “The presence of either bright red blood, very dark, or black stool can be one of the later onset symptoms of colon cancer [a type of bowel cancer],” said the RCCA. The oncology network reiterated that such a warning sign “should never be ignored”.

Unexplained weight loss can also be a stark reminder that something is wrong.

This is especially true if the weight loss is sudden, which may suggest your body isn’t absorbing nutrients.

Alternatively, cancer cells could be using up a lot of energy hence the dramatic change in physique.

A growing tumour can be exhausting for the body, so fatigue that doesn’t go away with plenty of rest could be another symptom of colon cancer.

“The resultant exhaustion may be caused by internal bleeding and anaemia,” the RCCA added.

One other possible sign of colon cancer is “pain in the rectum, or the urge to have a bowel movement, without producing one”.

Many of these symptoms can be indicative of minor ailments and non-cancerous disorders.

However, it’s pertinent to report these to your GP so that the root cause can be investigated – which may or may not be cancer.

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Colon cancer

Cancer Research UK explained that the colon is the first part of the large bowel.

The earlier colon cancer is identified and treated, the better the chances of recovery.

To illustrate, 90 percent of people with stage 1 bowel cancer will survive their cancer for five years or more after diagnosis.

However, only 10 percent of people with stage 4 bowel cancer will face the same odds.

Diagnosis can begin the moment you inform your GP of any troubling symptoms.

Testing may involve a faecal immunochemical test (IFT) that looks for traces of blood in faeces.

This is the same test that is routinely sent to people eligible to take part in bowel cancer screening.

After the doctor’s visit, you may also be referred to hospital for further testing, which might involve a colonoscopy.

If bowel cancer has spread to other body parts, there are unique signs of cancer to be aware of.

This can include the following if the cancer has spread to the liver:

  • Discomfort or pain on the right side of your abdomen
  • Feeling sick
  • Poor appetite and weight loss
  • Swollen abdomen (called ascites)
  • Yellowing of the skin (jaundice)
  • Itchy skin

If the cancer has spread to the lungs, then the following symptoms might occur:

  • A cough that doesn’t go away (often worse at night)
  • Breathlessness
  • Ongoing chest infections
  • Coughing up blood
  • A build-up of fluid between the chest wall and the lung (a pleural effusion)

“Treatments such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy can sometimes shrink the cancer and reduce symptoms,” said Cancer Research UK.

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  • Posted on April 29, 2021