Bowel cancer symptoms and signs are in general nonspecific and unfortunately, the majority of patients with bowel cancer are diagnosed because they have symptoms or signs which can often mean the disease has progressed. The most common presenting symptom of bowel cancer is vague abdominal pain. In the rectum, patients most frequently complain of blood in the stools. Tenesmus is another major sign of bowel cancer.
In a study published in the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, tenesmus as a sign for bowel cancer was further investigated.
The study noted: “Abdominal pain in colorectal cancer is nonspecific.
“It can be colicky in nature if the lesion is causing a partial obstruction. Otherwise, it can just be constant localized or generalized pain.
“In the former instance, a localized perforation has to be considered, whereas peritonitis associated with a perforation must be considered in the latter.
“Tenesmus or the feeling of having to defecate without having stools, pain upon defecation, or sciatica can be symptoms of rectal cancer.
“Sciatica is an ominous symptom, signifying locally advanced rectal cancer with major neural involvement by the tumour.”
What is tenesmus
Tenesmus relates to experiencing a cramping rectal pain.
Tenesmus gives a person the feeling that they need to have a bowel movement, even if they have already had one.
When a person has tenesmus, they might strain harder to produce only a small amount of stool during bowel movements.
It’s important to note that tenesmus can be a sign of several health issues so its always best to discuss with a GP the possible cause for this pain.
Medical News Today lists the other possible causes for tenesmus which include:
- Colon infection, which can be caused by organisms, such as a bacteria or virus
- Ischemic colitis, an inflammation of the colon due to decreased blood flow to that area
- Diverticulitis, caused by inflammation of bulges in the wall of the colon
- Inflammation of the colon due to radiation
- The abnormal movement of food or waste in the digestive tract
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- A prolapsed haemorrhoid
- A rectal abscess
- Rectal gonorrhoea
Feeling overly tired may also be caused by bowel cancer, warned charity Bowel Cancer UK.
The disease has been linked with an iron deficiency, which subsequently leads to anaemia.
Anaemia symptoms include feeling very tired, and it may even make the skin appear paler than normal.
You should consider speaking to a doctor if your tiredness seems worse than normal and lasts for at least three weeks.
You should see your GP if your change in bowel habit persists for more than four weeks.
But just because you notice a subtle change to your bowel habit, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have bowel cancer.
The doctor will assess whether you may be at risk of the disease by asking about your symptoms, and whether you have a family history of bowel cancer.
Your GP could subsequently refer you to a specialist for further investigation.