Man’s unusual bowel habits turned out to be cancer – what to spot

Bowel cancer: Dr Amir explains symptoms to look out for

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Bowel cancer symptoms often go undetected, not least because they are similar to the tell-tale signs of many other conditions. This is something that David Clarke knows far too well. Diagnosed with stage 2 bowel cancer in 2021, the 43-year-old man first blamed other problems for his rectal bleeds.

David Clarke, 43, was no stranger to occasional blood in his stool because of an anal fissure.

Anal fissures describe small tears in the thin, moist tissue that lines your bottom.

“This was nothing particularly serious and with simple treatment it came and went,” he told Bowel Cancer UK.

This meant that when the “occasional blood and pain” returned in 2021, David just thought it was the fissure and carried on as normal.

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However, new symptoms like “unusual” bowel habits also started to crop up, prompting David to “worry a little more”.

“I noticed the blood was more frequent and that my bowel habits were becoming a little unusual (consistency, frequency etc),” he said.

It all escalated in autumn that year, when David experienced what can only be described as an “utterly appalling poo”.

“Without sharing too much detail, essentially it left the entire toilet bowl a deep red, and was repeated twice over the next two hours,” the 43-year-old added.

Symptoms like David experienced describe 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.

The health service recommends seeing a GP if you have any of these symptoms for three weeks or more.

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While doctors didn’t think it was anything serious at first given David’s age, he was still booked for a colonoscopy “to be on the safe side”.

During the procedure that is routinely used to determine whether there’s a tumour in the tummy, David clicked that something was very wrong. He said: “My worst fears were realised. I had cancer.”

Because his cancer hasn’t spread, David was able to undergo a surgery that removed the tumour, along with most of his rectum.

Fortunately, the operation was successful which meant there was no need for chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

“As you can imagine, this was a huge relief,” David added.

Now, his bowels are working again and he’s very keen to raise awareness of the cancerous condition.

He said: “It’s still very early days and certainly I have spent a lot of time on the toilet but I’m hopeful that with time I can settle into my ‘new normal’.

“Raising awareness of bowel cancer is absolutely crucial – and it’s a simple message; get yourself checked.

“If caught early enough, the surgeons really can save lives. Do not delay!”

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