Woman, 72, experienced bloating for months due to bowel cancer

Bowel cancer: Dr Philippa Kaye lists the symptoms

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Bowel cancer – also known as colorectal cancer – is the second most deadly form of the disease in the UK. It accounts for around 43,000 new diagnoses and 16,500 deaths every year. Being aware of the symptoms is therefore important.

In the case of one 72-year-old patient, she experienced symptoms for two months prior to a diagnosis.

In a case study presented by Targeted Oncology in 2021 it detailed how she suffered from bloating and abdominal discomfort – both common signs of the disease.

She also experienced “unintentional” weight loss, which is a general indication of cancer.

Sharing her story, Doctor Kanwal Raghav – from the MD Anderson Cancer Centre, explained: “This patient presented with a two-month history of bloating and abdominal discomfort.

“Her last colonoscopy was about two years ago and was negative, and she also had some unintentional weight loss.”

Testing revealed the patient was also anaemic and had “elevated” levels of carcinoembryonic antigens, which are proteins produced by some types of cancer.

A colonoscopy showed she had a nine centimetre mass in the ascending colon.

This was determined to be a malignant tumour during a biopsy.

A CT scan also showed widespread lesions spread across the liver.

Therefore she was diagnosed with stage four colorectal cancer, meaning it has spread to other parts of the body.

She was prescribed various drugs which she took for four months, followed by three sets of chemotherapy.

During this time she experienced further symptoms.

Dr Raghav said: “In June 2019, the patient had increasing symptoms of shortness of breath and fatigue, and scans showed disease progression in both the lungs and the liver.

“Patient was then switched to 5-fluorouracil, leucovorin, irinotecan and cetuximab and received this treatment until August 2020 with stable disease as the best response.

“In August 2020, the patient had progressive disease and was given regorafenib.”

He added: “Interestingly, it’s strange that the patient developed this disease in a rather short interval from the last colonoscopy, which was completely negative.”

Other symptoms

Bowel cancer symptoms can often show up when you go to the toilet.

These include bleeding from the rectum, or finding blood in your poo.

Patients might also notice a change in their normal bowel habits or a feeling of needing to strain even after opening their bowels.

According to Cancer Research UK, other signs include:

  • A lump on the right side of your abdomen
  • Losing weight
  • Pain in your abdomen or back passage
  • Tiredness and breathlessness.

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