Bowel cancer symptoms usually affect a person’s bowel habits. More than 90 percent of people with bowel cancer experience a persistent change in bowel habit, blood in poo and abdominal pain, according to the NHS. But patients with metastatic bowel cancer may experience a different set of symptoms.
Metastatic bowel cancer is when cancer cells break away from the tumour in the bowel and spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream or lymphatic system.
“These cells may settle and form new tumours on a different organ,” explains Cancer Treatment Centres of America.
It adds: “Even though the cancer has spread to a new organ, it is still named after the part of the body where it originally started.
“So colorectal [bowel] cancer that spreads, or metastasises, to the lungs, liver or any other organ is called metastatic colorectal cancer.”
While the most common site of metastases for bowel cancer is the liver, bowel cancer cells may also spread to the lungs.
If the lungs are affected, symptoms may include shortness of breath.
But it’s important to note shortness of breath might not be anything serious.
Shortness of breath has lots of different causes, including asthma, a chest infection, being overweight and smoking.
It can also be a sign of a panic attack.
The NHS advises you see your GP if you have shortness of breath that’s lasted longer than a month, gets worse when you’ve been active, or gets worse when you lie down.
If you’ve been coughing for three weeks or more or have swollen ankles, also see a GP.
If you’re struggling to breath or you have sudden shortness of breath and the following you should call 999:
- your chest feels tight or heavy
- you have pain that spreads to your arms, back, neck and jaw
- you feel sick or are being sick
This could be a sign of a heart attack or a problem with your lungs or airway.
Other symptoms of metastatic bowel cancer
If the liver is affected, Cancer Treatment Centres of America says symptoms may include nausea, fatigue, swelling of the feet and hands, increased abdominal girth and/or jaundice.
If the bones are affected, symptoms may include pain, fractures, constipation and/or high calcium levels.
If the lymph nodes of the abdomen are affected, it may cause bloating, a swollen belly and/or loss of appetite.
If the brain and/or spinal cord are affected, symptoms may include pain, confusion, memory loss, headache, blurred or double vision, difficulty speaking and/or seizures.
Cancer research UK is urging people if they notice any possible cancer symptoms or any changes that are unusual to contact their doctor, because early cancer diagnosis saves lives.
The charity explains: “Due to coronavirus fewer people are contacting their doctor. Your local surgery is ready to help you safely. They can talk to you by phone or video link and can arrange for tests.
“Whatever happens, tell your doctor if your symptoms get worse or don’t get better. Early diagnosis saves lives.”