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Rectal bleeding strongest red flag for bowel cancer

By Nigel Praities

Rectal bleeding is the strongest marker of early-stage bowel cancer and its presence brings patients significantly improved survival, say UK researchers.

Their study looked at data from the Wessex Bowel Cancer Audit, with the presenting symptoms of 845 patients with bowel cancer identified from case notes.

Of those with rectal or sigmoid cancer, 63% presented with rectal bleeding and these patients were significantly more likely to have Dukes' stage A disease rather than Dukes' stage D, compared with patients presenting with a change in bowel habit or abdominal pain.

Study leader Mr Michael Thompson, consultant colorectal surgeon at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, concluded: ‘Rectal bleeding is a symptom that occurs at an earlier stage in the natural history of bowel cancer, at a time when there has been less extensive local spread.'

Colorectal Disease, online 30 September

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