Talking with your GP

GPs are well used to talking about bottoms and other intimate subjects so if you have been experiencing any bowel cancer symptoms, make an appointment to see yours. The more information you can give about your bowel habits, the easier it will be for your doctor to make an accurate diagnosis.

Don’t be shy. Whatever you have to say, your GP has heard it before.

Preparing for your appointment

Your GP will ask some routine questions to help him or her diagnose your symptoms. Making some notes beforehand may make you feel more comfortable talking about the symptoms you are experiencing. Try noting some information for each of the following questions:

  • Have you had a recent, persistent change in bowel habit to looser, more diarrhoea-like motions, or are you going to the toilet more, or trying to go?
  • If you haven’t had a change in bowel habit, do you have bleeding from the bottom?
  • Do you have other symptoms such as straining, soreness, pain, itchiness? (If your answer is ‘yes’, you may have piles but it is still important to see your GP for confirmation).
  • Have you experienced any abdominal pain?
  • Have you lost weight or become more tired lately?

Your doctor may also ask you about your lifestyle and diet (to determine any risk factors), your past medical history, and any medications you may be taking (including painkillers, indigestion remedies, antibiotics and laxatives).

You can ask the doctor questions too. Make a list before the appointment. This will ensure you ask all the questions you need to, and receive all of the information you want.

Examinations and investigations

In addition to the questions, your GP should undertake a painless rectal examination (also known as a ‘PR’) to feel (with a gloved and lubricated finger for any suspicious lumps in the bottom or rectum.

If your GP does not examine you, ask why.

Your GP may also ask for a blood test to see if you are anaemic, and for other information that may help provide a diagnosis.

Your doctor may also request a stool sample (sample of a bowel motion). This will be sent away to test for blood in the bowel motion.

If you are experiencing symptoms of concern, and your GP can rule out piles (following a rectal exam), a referral to a local hospital for further investigation is necessary.