A potential breakthrough has emerged in the diagnosis of bowel cancer, which may enable people seeking private cancer treatment to have the disease detected and treated at a much earlier stage.
Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis have identified four specific symptoms that they describe as ‘red flags’ for the early onset of colorectal cancer.
The symptoms in question are abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, diarrhoea and iron deficiency anaemia. Each of these was shown to be an indicator of a greater likelihood of developing the disease in patients under the age of 50. Even one of these symptoms indicated double the risk, whereas three or more made it 6.5 times higher than average.
Details of the research were published in the May 4th edition of the National Cancer Institute.
Senior investigator Yin Cao said it is important to understand that colorectal cancer is not just a disease affecting older people and it is important for younger adults ”to be aware of and act on these potentially very telling signs and symptoms.”
This is “particularly because people under 50 are considered to be at low risk, and they don’t receive routine colorectal cancer screening”, he continued.
He added that there also needs to be more awareness of the risk among medical professionals, commenting: “To date, many early-onset colorectal cancers are detected in emergency rooms, and there often are significant diagnostic delays with this cancer.”
Britons may have benefitted from the efforts to raise awareness of bowel cancer from younger patients affected by the disease, such as the late Dame Deborah James, who died in 2022 at the age of 40.
She hosted the ‘You, me and the Big C’ podcast after her diagnosis in 2016 and set up the Bowelbabe fund to carry out studies into the disease. In doing so she helped raise awareness of potential symptoms as well as money for research.