Bowel cancer: Dr Philippa Kaye lists the symptoms
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Bowel cancer symptoms often go undetected, not least because they make many people feel squeamish. However, the deadly condition doesn’t always cause the most noticeable signs. While you might expect blood in your stool, the warning signs could be vaguer. Natasha Hayes, who was 48 when diagnosed with bowel cancer, only experienced one very painful sign.
While fatigue is linked to most cancer types, the position of bowel cancer tumour means that symptoms often crop up in your tummy and on the loo.
This happened in Natasha’s case who first experienced a stubborn pain in this area.
Natasha from Horsham told Bowel Cancer UK: “I started having a gnawing pain on the left side of my tummy which came and went, sometimes for days.
“I contacted the doctor and he sent me for an endoscopy which showed a hiatus hernia and gastro reflux disease so I was given medication.
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“However, after a few weeks the pain was still there so I returned to the doctor and he doubled the dose.
“I left it a couple more weeks but there was still no change so I went back to the doctor again. I have Crohn’s disease so my doctor referred me the gastro team.”
After Natasha spoke to the specialist, she was referred for an MRI scan, which uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to produce detailed images of the inside of the body.
This test revealed a tumour in her bowel that doctors suspected to be cancerous.
She said: “There was also a cyst on my liver. I couldn’t take it in, I burst into tears. Cancer!
“But I am only 48, I exercise five times a week, I eat healthy, drink in moderation, don’t smoke and I am not overweight. How could this be happening to me?”
Following a CT scan and colonoscopy, the doctors confirmed the tumour in her bowel was indeed cancer.
While Natasha’s main symptom was stomach pain, bowel cancer can trigger a variety of other warning signs.
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According to the NHS, the full list of symptoms to be aware of includes:
- Persistent blood in your poo (that happens for no obvious reason or is associated with a change in bowel habit)
- Persistent change in your bowel habit (having to poo more and your poo may also become more runny)
- Persistent lower abdominal (tummy) pain, bloating or discomfort (always caused by eating and may be associated with loss of appetite or significant unintentional weight loss).
The NHS recommends seeing a GP if you have any of the symptoms of bowel cancer for three weeks or more.
Following Natasha’s diagnosis, she had to undergo surgery and chemotherapy.
“Chemo was tough but I just broke it down: one done, halfway, two to go, last one,” she said.
After she completed all her chemotherapy, Natasha was sent for another MRI scan of her liver this time.
This test revealed the presence of a tumour in her liver that called for a surgery, during which the doctors removed 15 percent of the organ.
“I have been so well looked after and I’m so grateful to everyone who has helped me along the way,” the woman added.
In July, she did a sponsored run for a cancer charity, which allowed her “to give something back”. Natasha said: “I’ve always loved to run, and I am now just starting my couch to 5k again and looking forward to some lovely holidays.”
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