Bowel cancer symptoms: Jeremy Bowen reveals the atypical sign which led to diagnosis

Welsh journalist and television presenter Jeremy Bowen, 59, has worked for the BBC since 1984, currently working as the corporation’s Middle East editor. He was diagnosed with bowel cancer in October last year. Appearing on BBC Breakfast this morning, Bowen discussed his cancer diagnosis, and the symptoms which led him to get medical help. Symptoms of bowel cancer typically involve changes in bowel habits, but Bowen revealed he experienced no common symptoms. Instead he experienced pains in his legs and back.

Speaking to Dan Walker and Louise Minchin, Bowen explained: “I had funny pains in my legs and my back, had to go to hospital for a few days but they didn’t say it was cancer – they said it was scar tissue from a previous operation.

“I had no symptoms, no classic bowel cancer symptoms – but I thought I should get a test,” he continued. “It came back positive.

“It [the diagnosis] could have been a bit earlier – but had it been much later it would have been much worse.”

Bowen had a colonoscopy, which led to the discovery of a tumour, which he then had removed in an operation. He is now having chemotherapy.

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“The key thing is to get tested, I’ve told all my friends to get to their doctors for a test,” the journalist added.

“Bowels and poo are not the normal things people want to talk about, but don’t die of embarrassment, for god’s sake.

“If me coming on your programme means a few extra people decide to get tested and as a result get their cancers caught, then it’s time well spent.

“Actually if there is something wrong with you, it’s far better to know. There’s great treatment there.

“It’s more reassuring to know that something’s being dealt with than thinking: ‘I’ll wait till next week’. Don’t wait till next week!”

What is bowel cancer?

Bowel cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in the UK, with around 41,700 new cases diagnosed each year.

Like most types of cancer, it is more easily treatable the earlier it is diagnosed.

What are the symptoms of bowel cancer?

The symptoms of bowel cancer can be subtle and don’t necessarily make you feel ill, warns the NHS.

More than 90 per cent of people with bowel cancer have one of the following combinations of symptoms:

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A persistent change in bowel habits – such as going more often, with looser stools and sometimes tummy pain;

Blood in the stools – without other symptoms of piles. This makes it unlikely the cause is haemorrhoids;

Abdominal pain, discomfort or bloating – this is always brought on by eating and sometimes results in a reduction in the amount of food eaten and weight loss.

“If you have one or more of the symptoms of bowel cancer, and they persist for more than four weeks, you should see your GP,” warned the NHS.

Another BBC presenter, Deborah James, was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2016. In January of this year, she took to social media to encourage others to be wary of the symptoms of the disease.

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