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The bowel cancer symptom George Alagiah wished he’d caught earlier

George Alagiah, esteemed BBC presenter, passed away at the age of 67, having bravely fought bowel cancer for nearly ten years.

Diagnosed first in 2014, the news anchor underwent numerous treatment rounds as the disease recurred and metastasized in the subsequent years.

His representative, Mary Greenham, released a statement that read, “George battled relentlessly, but sadly the fight concluded earlier today. Everyone who knew George, whether as a friend, colleague or an ordinary person, held him in deep affection.

“He was an exceptional human being. My thoughts are now with Fran, their sons, and the extended family.”

In a candid discussion earlier this year, Alagiah revealed a symptom he wished he had identified sooner: blood in his stools. He was participating in an NHS initiative aimed at urging the public to opt for its bowel cancer screening program.

He strongly advised those who have received a free test kit from the health service “not to disregard it” as it “could be a lifesaver.”

He had noted, “If I had been screened, I could have been detected. By the time I was 58, I would have undergone screening at least three, possibly four times, and this could have been identified at the polyp stage: snip, snip.”

After consulting with doctors about discovering blood in his stools, Alagiah was diagnosed. He underwent 17 chemotherapy cycles and five surgeries to manage the disease, which later metastasized to his liver and lymph nodes.

He championed a campaign by Bowel Cancer UK and Beating Bowel Cancer to ensure cancer screening was accessible to all in England from age 50. At present, the screening is offered to everyone aged 60 to 74, but the NHS is broadening the scope to include everyone aged 50 to 59 years old.

Every year in the UK, bowel cancer is diagnosed in approximately 42,000 individuals, with 90 per cent of these diagnoses in people aged 50 and above. It is the fourth most prevalent and the second most deadly cancer, resulting in nearly 16,800 fatalities annually.

Bowel cancer’s primary symptoms comprise persistent blood in stools; a continuing shift in bowel habits, like more frequent visits or diarrhoea; and ongoing lower abdominal discomfort, bloating or pain.

Some patients may also experience loss of appetite, or significant, unintentional weight loss. According to Cancer Research UK, another potential symptom is tenesmus, which is the sensation of needing to defecate without producing stools, or experiencing pain during defecation.

Studies indicate that several factors could potentially amplify the risk of bowel cancer, although they cannot account for every instance. These include a high intake of red or processed meats and low fibre diet; being overweight or obese; inadequate physical activity; and excessive alcohol consumption.

Risk increases with smoking and having a familial history of the disease. Certain individuals with chronic conditions such as extensive ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease may also have an increased bowel cancer risk.

Surgery, potentially combined with chemotherapy, radiotherapy or biological treatments, can treat bowel cancer. Detecting the cancer at an early stage significantly enhances survival chances.

However, as per NHS, if a malignant tumour cannot be fully removed surgically, then a cure might not be feasible.

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