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Red flags when you go to the toilet you should never ignore – GP advice

Bowel cancer: Dr Philippa Kaye lists the symptoms

There are key indicators of your overall health and wellbeing that are easy to keep track of on a day-to-day basis.

This includes things like your sleeping pattern, your appetite, tiredness levels and fitness levels.

It also includes toilet habits, such as how often you go to the toilet and the appearance of your stools.

While they may be affected by something as harmless as a change in diet, they can also be a precursor for something far more sinister.

Three experts spoke with about what to look for.

READ MORE The sign every man should look for after urinating – could signal silent killer

Abbas Kanani, pharmacist at Chemist Click online pharmacy, warned about unexplained and persistent changes in your bowel habits as well as finding blood in your stool.

He said: “Unexplained, persistent changes in your bowel habits – loose watery stools, hard or dry stools and unusual and persistent changes in the texture could signal irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, or a food intolerance or allergy.

“Blood in stool – dark red or maroon – may point to issues higher up in the colon, and deep, tar-like stool is often a sign that there’s an issue in the stomach itself, like bleeding due to ulcers.

“This could signal haemorrhoids, which are swollen veins in your lower rectum that can bleed.

“If it’s persistent and paired with other gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhoea it could signal IBD.”

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Doctor Angela Rai, GP at The London General Practice, expanded on this and warned that blood in stools could indicate bowel cancer.

It could be the “first noticeable” sign of the disease, she said.

Dr Rai said: “The symptoms of bowel cancer can be subtle and should be checked if you have these symptoms or any persistent changes in bowel habits, blood in your stool or unintentional weight loss.

“See your GP, they can arrange tests including blood tests, stool tests or more advanced tests like colonoscopy or CT colonography if required.

“Bowel cancer is treatable and curable especially if diagnosed early. Nearly everyone survives bowel cancer if diagnosed at the earliest stage.

“However, this drops significantly as the disease develops. Early diagnosis really does save lives.”

But she added: “However, this is a common symptom and can usually be caused by other conditions like haemorrhoids or anal fissures.

“Blood in the stool without haemorrhoid symptoms such as soreness, itching and discomfort is more of a concern.

“Blood in the stool with persistent change in bowel habit to looser stool and opening your bowels more often and can also be associated with abdominal discomfort and pain.

Her colleague Dr Sanjay Mehta also commented on changes when urinating.

He said: “Prostate cancer is a disease we tend to see in older age groups, but there are exceptions, as with any form of cancer.

“It’s often about urinary symptoms and changes to how you pee, so frequency, where you need to go more often.

“Hesitancy, where you’re standing over the toilet bowl and a period of time will pass before you’re able to pass urine, and ‘dribbling’, where you’ve finished but find you’re still passing using when you walk away.

“These are common in older men anyway. But if it’s new for you, and you find you’re having to go more often at night, and you’re having hesitancy or urgency, see your doctor.”

If you experience any of these unexplained symptoms you should speak to your GP.

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