Wednesday, 1 Feb 2023

Bowel cancer symptoms: Know the ‘BCA’ signs of a growing tumour that could be deadly

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Bowel cancer claims the lives of 16,000 people each year in the UK. To help bring down this number, Bowel Research UK are highlighting the symptoms of the disease. Known as “BCA” – being cancer aware – you need to pay attention to the following warning signs.

  • B – bleeding from your bottom. Always check after using the toilet
  • C – change in normal bowel habits that last for more than three weeks
  • A – abdominal pain, acute tiredness, and/or a lump in your tummy

“If you experience any of these symptoms over three or more weeks, it is really important to speak to your GP as soon as possible,” the charity stated.

“Early diagnosis saves lives so please don’t put off speaking to your GP.”

Bowel cancer can also lead to “unexplained weight loss”, meaning the pounds keep dropping off without a change to your diet or exercise regime.

You might also feel as though “you have not emptied your bowels properly after you poo”.

Such a sensation could reveal a tumour in the bowel; it’s the cancerous lump you would be feeling.

“Everyone needs to be aware of the signs and symptoms as early bowel cancer diagnosis is vital,” the charity added.

While the condition is more likely to occur in people over the age of 50, it can strike at a much younger age.

Bowel Research UK explained: “Our body is made up of more than 37 trillion cells that change and grow naturally.

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“Cancer starts when cell changes go wrong and cells begin to divide in an uncontrolled way.

“Bowel cancer begins as a solid tumour, usually developing from small polyps that are found on the bowel wall.

“Many of us have these polyps, and as we age they are more common. Most will never turn into cancer, but over time they can.”

How common is bowel cancer?

One in 14 men will be diagnosed with bowel cancer during their lifetime; the deadly disease will affect one in 19 women.

Current research, funded by the charity, is looking into the development of a blood test to detect early signs of bowel cancer in people who have irritable bowel syndrome.

Led by Kane Smith, and supervised by Professor Trevor Graham at The Institute of Cancer Research, the aim is to identify bowel cancers at their earliest stages and to reduce the need to have invasive colonoscopies.

People who have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are more likely to develop bowel cancer.

Patients tend to be offered regular colonoscopies, which can be “time-consuming, expensive, and uncomfortable for the patient”.


The NHS listed the main symptoms of IBS, which include:

  • Stomach pain or cramps – usually worse after eating and better after doing a poo
  • Bloating – your tummy may feel uncomfortably full and swollen
  • Diarrhoea – you may have watery poo and sometimes need to poo suddenly
  • Constipation – you may strain when pooing and feel like you cannot empty your bowels fully.

IBS can also lead to flatulence, passing mucus from your bottom, tiredness, nausea, and backache.

To help improve symptoms of IBS, the national health body suggests cooking homemade meals, using fresh ingredients, and reducing stress levels.

Additional support can come from consuming probiotics, which may help some people who have IBS.

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