Talking to Your Doctor

Questions to ask your Doctor

If you have been experiencing any of the symptoms of bowel cancer, make an appointment to see your GP. Remember, GPs are used to people talking about bottoms and other intimate subjects – whatever you have to say, they will have heard it before.

The more information you can give to your doctor about your bowel habits, the easier it will be for them to make an accurate diagnosis – so don’t be shy.

At the doctor’s surgery

Below is a list of routine questions, which your doctor may ask you to establish a diagnosis for your symptoms.

  • Have you had a recent, persistent change in bowel habit to looser, more diarrhoea- like motions, going to the toilet more, or trying to go?
  • If you haven’t had a change of bowel habit, but have bleeding from the bottom.
  • Have you any other symptoms like straining, soreness, pain and itchiness? (If the answer to this is yes, it may be that you have piles but it’s still important for you to get this confirmed by your GP).
  • Have you experienced any abdominal pain?
  • Have you lost weight or become more tired recently?

Your doctor may also ask you other questions about:

  • Your lifestyle and diet (to determine any other possible risk factors)
  • Your past medical history.
  • Current medications (including pain killers, indigestion remedies, antibiotics and laxatives)

Examinations/ Investigations

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

If your GP does not examine you, you may ask why they have chosen not to.Your GP may also choose to undertake a blood test to see if you have anaemia or anything else that may help with a diagnosis.

Your doctor may ask you to provide a sample of your bowel motion (a stool sample) so they can send it away to see if there is blood in your bowel motion.

What next?

If your GP can confidently rule out piles (following a rectal examination) and you are experiencing symptoms of concern, you should be referred to your local hospital for further investigations.