Six signs you could have stage 3 or 4 bowel cancer – doctor advice

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“Stage one bowel cancer usually has no symptoms,” Dr Deborah Lee from Dr Fox Online Pharmacy said.

“At this stage, the cancer has grown through the cells lining the bowel wall and into the muscular wall of the intestines but has not spread any further.”

Dr Lee said: “Bowel cancer is thought to have a long premalignant phase. It may take 10 years for bowel cancer to grow from a small bowel polyp.”

Stage two bowel cancer, however, means the tumour has grown through the bowel wall and may have spread to nearby tissue.

No lymph nodes will be affected at this stage, and even those who have stage two bowel cancer may not have symptoms at this stage.

It’s in stage three and stage four of bowel cancer when symptoms are likely to appear.

Dr Lee said possible symptoms can include:

  • Blood in the stools
  • Bleeding from the rectum
  • A change in bowel habits with diarrhoea or constipation
  • Lower abdominal pain
  • A change in the shape of the stool – such as long narrow stools
  • Excessive gas from the back passage.

“In stage three bowel cancer, the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes but not elsewhere in the body,” Dr Lee explained.

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“In stage four, it has spread for example to the lungs or the liver.”

Dr Lee added: “In stage three or four bowel cancer, patients often have symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, abdominal pain, weight loss and vomiting.

“It can also cause jaundice (yellowing of the skin) and shortness of breath.”

Dr Lee urged: “If you have any worries, see your GP. Don’t be embarrassed. Even your GP sits on the toilet!

“They will be pleased you have come to see them and be more than happy to do all they can to help you. Don’t leave it to chance.”

While bowel cancer can affect anybody, there are certain risk factors that can make the development of the disease more likely.

Risk factors for bowel cancer include:

  • Being over the age of 50
  • Smoking
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Obesity
  • A family history of bowel cancer
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Polyps in the bowel
  • Lynch syndrome
  • Familial adenomatous polyposis.

Dr Lee claimed: “Interestingly, dogs can smell bowel cancer. In one study, dogs were as successful as colonoscopy (telescope in the bowel) at detecting bowel cancer.

“Dogs are very sensitive at detecting chemicals produced by the tumour, in the exhaled breath and the poo.”

However, the best thing to do if you have any niggling worries is to speak to your doctor.

The sooner a tumour is diagnosed and treated, the better the outlook is likely to be.

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