One of the least talked about areas of the body, having an irritation in the bowels can be an unpleasant experience.
Bowel cancer, also known as colon cancer or colorectal cancer is the fourth most common diseases after breast, prostate and lung cancers.
A recent study has warned around one in five bowel cancer patients told they have the disease in A&E, have suffered some of the "red flag" symptoms at least a year before their diagnosis.
Experts have warned doctors are missing key opportunities to diagnose patients - missed opportunities that could mean the difference between life and death.
Notably, former football stars David Beckham and Rio Ferdinand have joined forces with Cancer Research UK to raise awareness of bowel cancer.
Here are the red-flag signs of bowel cancer.
The five red-flag symptoms of bowel cancer include:
- Bleeding from the back passage, or blood in your poo
- A change in your normal toilet habits - going more frequently for example
- Pain or a lump in your tummy
- Extreme tiredness
- Losing weight
Tumours in the bowel typically bleed, which can cause a shortage of red blood cells, known as anaemia. It can cause tiredness and sometimes breathlessness.
In some cases bowel cancer can block the bowel, this is known as a bowel obstruction.
Other signs include:
- Gripping pains in the abdomen
- Feeling bloated
- Constipation and being unable to pass wind
- Being sick
- Feeling like you need to strain - like doing a number two - but after you've been to the loo
While these are all signs to watch out for, experts warn the most serious is noticing blood in your stools.
But, they warn it can prove tricky for doctors to diagnose the disease, because in most cases these symptoms will be a sign of a less serious disease.
Risk factors of bowel cancer:
Scientists do not know the cause of most forms of bowel cancer, but they do know a series of factors that can increase a person's risk of the disease. Some of these things are just a fact of life - age and genetics for example.
However, others are lifestyle factors that can be changed and improved.
You're at greater risk of bowel cancer if you have one or more of the following risk factors:
- You're aged over 50
- You have a strong family history of the disease - eg. a parent, sibling or child diagnosed with bowel cancer before the age of 50, or two or more relatives diagnosed at any age or one or more relative with a known genetic condition linked to bowel cancer
- A history of non-cancerous growths, known as polyps, in your bowel
- long-term inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis
- type 2 diabetes
- An unhealthy lifestyle - you smoke, are overweight or obese and do not get enough exercise
Can bowel cancer be treated?
Bowel cancer is treatable and can be cured, particularly if it is diagnosed early enough.