The Surprising Poo Symptom That Flagged This GP's Bowel Cancer

A GP has revealed the unusual yet subtle warning sign that showed she had bowel cancer.

Dr Anisha Patel, who is 44 and from Surrey, was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer five years ago and has since written about her experience in a book called Everything You Hoped You’d Never Need To Know About Bowel Cancer.

Now in remission, Dr Patel is using her experience to share the subtle and non-obvious changes people need to be aware of when it comes to bowel cancer.

“People should know their own bowel habits but often people don’t know what’s normal for them, so my biggest advice is to check your poo before you flush the toilet, check the tissue because sometimes you don’t even know if there’s blood on it,” Dr Patel told The Mirror. 

An unusual symptom she noticed before she was diagnosed with the disease was a change in her poo shape.

“When I had cancer, my poo actually became thin and ribbon-like because there was a tumour obstructing it coming out, so it was basically compressing it and making it thin. So it’s subtle things like that,” she explained.

Other symptoms of bowel cancer include:

  • changes in your poo, such as having softer poo, diarrhoea or constipation that is not usual for you

  • needing to poo more or less often than usual

  • blood in your poo, which may look red or black

  • bleeding from your bottom

  • often feeling like you need to poo, even if you’ve just been to the toilet

  • tummy pain

  • bloating

  • losing weight without trying

  • feeling very tired for no reason.

By regularly checking your poo, you will begin to understand what’s normal for you. If you experience a persistent change – which usually means you’ve had the issue for more than three weeks – you should see your GP.

Dr Patel urged people to examine their entire bodies at least once every month, including the skin, breasts, testicles and vulva, to keep on top of any changes.

She said: “People shouldn’t feel embarrassed to come to their doctors, we see this all the time. I am regularly examining various bits of the body and I don’t see any part of the body different to something else.”