Long standing problems with diarrhoea or constipation or cramping abdominal discomfort may suggest irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in younger people. Typically, patients with IBS have had episodic symptoms for many months. The condition is not life threatening but symptoms can be very troublesome. Fortunately, symptoms can be improved by a variety of dietary and medical steps. When diagnosing IBS it is important to exclude other important gut problems such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and bowel cancer. This can usually be done by simple blood tests and sometimes colonoscopy where the lower bowel (or colon) is viewed with a flexible telescope.

It is important to seek advice if you have had a recent change in bowel habit or have been passing blood with your motions, especially if you are 40 years old or more. It is particularly important if you have any of these symptoms and have a family history of bowel cancer or inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease).Why not listen to Dr Pollok talking about bowel cancer and colonoscopy in a recent radio interview.

Someone in your family may have had bowel cancer (also called colorectal cancer) or colonic polyps and you may be concerned about your risk. Having a close relative with bowel cancer or bowel polyps increases your chance of developing these conditions. If you are in this situation it may be worth considering a “screening” colonoscopy where the colon is viewed with a thin flexible telescope. This test can pick up polyps in the colon which, if left over years, these little lumps can develop into bowel cancer and removing them during colonoscopy stops this happening. Bowel cancer is the second most common cancer in the UK and can be prevented by screening. A bowel cancer screening programme for over 60 has started in the UK testing for blood in faeces and in the USA people over 50 are offered colonoscopy. You may have already had a faecal occult blood test and if this is ‘positive’ a colonoscopy is advised. Why not listen to Dr Pollok talking about bowel cancer and colonoscopy in a recent radio interview.

Pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen (indigestion or dyspepsia) or behind the chest (reflux) are common problems. There are several causes including gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, where acidic stomach contents go back up into the gullet causing irritation and inflammation this is more common if you have a hiatus hernia ( a weakness at the junction between the stomach and food pipe). Peptic ulcers in the stomach or just beyond in the duodenum may also cause indigestion.

People with these symptoms sometimes worry they have stomach cancer. Fortunately this is unusual and easily excluded by endoscopy where the upper part of the gut is viewed with a flexible telescope called an endoscopy. This test helps to diagnose acid reflux or oesophagitis, hiatus hernia, peptic ulcer disease, Barrett’s oesphagus and less common conditions including stomach cancer. It is important to seek prompt assessment if you unintentionally lose weight, have problems swallowing, develop unexplained anaemia, bring up blood or pass sticky black stools.

Here are a few useful articles on common Gastro problems.

It is important to seek advice if you have had a recent change in bowel habit or have been passing blood with your motions, particularly if you are 40 years old or more. It is particularly important if you have any of these symptoms and have a family history of bowel cancer or inflammatory bowel disease (colitis and Crohn’s disease). Why not also listen to Dr Pollok talking about bowel cancer and colonoscopy in a recent radio interview.

Dr Pollok has a particular interest in inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD),  this consists of two main conditions ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease. UC often presents with rectal bleeding or bloody diarrhoea and Crohn’s disease can present in a variety of ways for example diarrhoea, abdo pain, weight loss or uncomfortable problems around the anus. Both conditions tend to occur for the first time in young people and can run in the family. To diagnose these conditions blood tests, stool tests, radiological imaging and colonoscopy are needed. There is a slightly increased risk of bowel cancer in colitis and surveillance colonoscopy is reccomende in national guidelines. Also see the section on bowel cancer surveillance and why not listen to Dr Pollok talking about bowel cancer and colonoscopy in a recent radio interview.

For further information look at the Crohn’s and Colitis UK website which is a charity run for patients with IBD and is a reliable source  https://www.crohnsandcolitis.org.uk