Despite being deadly, cancer isn’t one for making a grand entrance. In fact, the first signs can often be subtle and vague. However, Alexandra King, who was diagnosed with stage 2 bowel cancer at the age of 37, will be the first to tell you how important it is to get any unusual changes checked by a doctor.
Blood in your poo is one of the most frequent signs of bowel cancer, targeting around 89 percent of patients, according to research, published in the journal Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England.
Looking at 183 participants, the research team set out to investigate the key signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer, discovering that rectal bleeding is very common.
While it was “easy to dismiss”, a bloody stool was also Alexandra’s first symptom.
The woman, from Somerset, told Bowel Cancer UK: “In January 2020, I had a tiny bit of blood in my poo and then again the following week with some bad bloating after a stodgy meal out.
READ MORE: The popular drink that could help ‘significantly’ burn visceral fat in ‘weeks’
“It was easy to dismiss as it was gone the next day.
“The following month there was blood in my poo again after a meal out. In hindsight, I am really lucky there was an obvious symptom like blood.”
Alexandra didn’t hesitate to visit her doctor to get these red flag symptoms checked.
However, the specialist put her symptoms down to irritable bowel syndrome, instructing Alexandra to take care of her body by eating more fibre and drinking more water.
Symptoms like Alexandra described are some of the tell-tale signs associated with the deadly condition.
According to the NHS, the “main” symptoms of bowel cancer include:
- Persistent blood in your poo (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)
- Loss of appetite
- Significant unintentional weight loss.
As time went on, Alexandra kept experiencing occasional bleeds every six to eight weeks.
She said: “It would always be around birthdays and Christmas where I probably ate more.
READ MORE: The two ‘worst’ pro-inflammatory foods you could have for blood clots, according to expert
“It was easy to forget about it at this rate, as it would just happen once and be gone. It was never explosive just a normal poo with a little blood on top.”
This continued until February 2021, when her symptoms escalated, leaving her stool looking like a “blood clot”.
She went straight to the doctors, with a photo of her poo, which prompted the specialists to book her for an emergency colonoscopy.
The examination, which represents one way to detect bowel cancer, showed a tumour in her rectum.
Following a few more tests, Alexandra was booked for surgery that would remove the pesky tumour.
She said: “Of course, I was scared but once I was at the hospital in the morning, the nurses were so reassuring.
“I’m very lucky the cancer hadn’t spread to my lymph nodes and they were able to cut it all out.”
Fortunately, follow-up scans three weeks after her surgery showed “brilliant news” – the cancer was gone.
Alexandra added: “My biggest promise to myself now is that I don’t stress anymore or work myself to the bone, damaging my health.
“I’ve also learnt that you are never too young or healthy and to check your poo!”