Here’s an interesting statistic. Over 65% of us will experience uncomfortable gut symptoms in any three month period such as bloating, cramping, gas or unexplained tiredness.
Many of us will explain it away as being diet related or stress. Some will Google irritable bowel syndrome or put it down to ‘not being as young or as fit as we used to be’. Even fewer of us will ask our doctor about our symptoms. But in many cases that ‘gut feeling’ that something’s not right, is worth trusting.
Statistically it’s unlikely you will have bowel cancer, especially if you are under 50 years of age. The critical thing with bowel cancer is to catch it early. Acting quickly when you first notice symptoms is the key because over 90% of cases can be successfully treated if diagnosed before the cancer spreads.
Most bowel symptoms are caused by less serious conditions, with 40% of gastroenterologist consultations being due to irritable bowel syndrome, and many simply diet related. Identifying the underlying cause and treating it will improve your overall wellbeing. For many people, simple dietary modifications can alleviate symptoms within a few short weeks.
THE IMPORTANT THING IS TO ASK YOUR DOCTOR TO CHECK IT OUT.
You know your body better than anyone, and everyone is different. If you think something’s not right, trust your gut and speak to your GP. It might just save your life.
Symptoms To Watch Out For/
Symptoms to watch out for:
Here’s just a few of the potential causes your GP or specialist might investigate:
- Bleeding from your bottom or blood in your bowel movements, even if only occasional
- A change in bowel habits for more than two weeks
– going to the toilet more frequently
– loose or watery bowel movements
– feeling that the bowel does not completely empty
– bowel movements that are thinner than usual
- Frequent gas, bloating, fullness or cramps
- Unexplained feelings of tiredness, breathlessness or a lack of energy
- Unexplained weight loss or vomiting
- Chronic or new abdominal pain that exists for more than a few days
- A lump in your abdomen or rectum
- Anal fissure
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Diverticular disease
- Poor diet
- Lack of exercise
- Food intolerance
- Bowel cancer
- A reaction to medicines
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Stress and anxiety
- Stomach ulcers
- Gastric reflux
- Gall stones
We developed a simple questionnaire to help you work out when you should investigate symptoms further by visiting your GP.
The questionnaire is simple enough to be completed at home or with your pharmacist.
What do our experts say/
Things hadn’t been right for a while, but at 39 years of age, and being pregnant with her fourth child, Anna’s GP understandably put her symptoms down to pregnancy-related issues. The most obvious was blood in her stool, and looking back she recalls feeling very tired, but working four days a week with three young children and another on the way, it seemed reasonable to feel that way at the time.
Eight months after her son was born, Anna came across The Jodi Lee Foundation website where she read stories that sounded remarkably similar to her own, leading her to question if perhaps her symptoms were something more sinister.
The very next day Anna returned to her GP and was referred to a specialist for a colonoscopy. By this time, she had been experiencing symptoms for fifteen months.
The colonoscopy revealed a large tumour in her bowel, and her worst fears were realised when results confirmed she had cancer, which had spread to four lymph nodes. Soon after Anna had surgery, followed by six months of chemotherapy. She is now on the road to recovery and having regular check-ups to make sure she remains cancer-free.
Anna credits The Jodi Lee Foundation for saving her life and hopes her story will encourage others question what is happening to their bodies.