Bowel cancer: Dr Amir explains symptoms to look out for
Bowel cancer isn’t always one for making a grand entrance. The first warning signs can often be vague. Sally Newton, 62, knows this far too well. The mum didn’t spot the deadly condition on the toilet like many other bowel cancer patients. Instead, something completely different rang alarm bells, prompting her to think that the symptoms were caused by her age at first.
It all started with the 62-year-old sending off a bowel screening test she received in the post a month before being scheduled for a colonoscopy.
However, she noticed she was feeling exhausted and out of breath while visiting family on holiday.
The warning signs didn’t stop there and when she almost fainted, she realised she needed to see her GP once she returned home to Newtownards, County Down, in Northern Ireland.
Sally’s blood tests revealed she had a very low blood count and was “extremely” anaemic.
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Anaemia describes a condition in which you lack enough healthy red blood cells to carry an adequate amount of oxygen to your body’s tissues.
Following Sally’s scheduled colonoscopy in Downe Hospital in Downpatrick, the mum was then sent for a colon CT scan in January 2022, which showed a cancerous tumour.
Just like in Sally’s case, one of the many symptoms and warning signs of bowel cancer can be anaemia, according to the American Cancer Society.
Bowel cancers can often bleed into your digestive tract, causing blood to crop up in your stool.
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Over time, the blood loss can build up and trigger low red blood cell counts, also known as anaemia.
The NHS also notes that anaemia caused by iron deficiency can indicate whether there’s any bleeding from your bowel that you aren’t aware of, as blood doesn’t always show up in your stool.
Sally’s tumour required being removed urgently so she had to undergo surgery in Ulster Hospital to have the right side of her colon removed just weeks later.
The 62-year-old told News Letter: “I made sure to get plenty of rest and was advised to not lift anything for four to six weeks.
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“It took me a few months before I started to feel a bit more normal again.
“I was required to have four sessions of chemotherapy and I knew I had to have these sessions to help me get better.
“The practice nurses were on hand if I needed any support and I could contact them if I felt I had any worries.
“At times I found this very challenging and it definitely had an impact on my physical and emotional health.
“After each session, I had to deal with this mentally because whenever I started to feel better, I had to then go for the next session of chemotherapy, but I just had to push myself through it.
“I had great support from my son and daughter-in-law who helped me during my treatment and recovery, which I am very grateful for.”
Fortunately, Sally has fully recovered and she’s been able to enjoy her usual routine again.
The mum is now urging anyone with a history of cancer in their family to speak to their GP with any concerns and to know what’s “normal for your body”.
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