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Is anaemia linked to bowel cancer?


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#1 RockingChair

Posted 23 June 2015 - 03:37 PM

I have recently had full blood tests that reveal my iron levels are extremely low.  During my last pregnancy in 2009 blood tests also revealed extremely low iron levels and I was put onto liquid iron.  I suspect that my iron levels never really improved and have been low ever since.

The doctor I am seeing is determined to find the reason for these levels before proceeding in treating me.  I have had to take another lot of blood tests and a stool sample test over 3 days.  He has said I am obviously bleeding internally and he wants to know where from and why.

I am terrified I might have bowel cancer even though logically I know the cause could be a number of things.

Is anaemia a symptom of bowel cancer?

#2 Acidulous Osprey

Posted 23 June 2015 - 03:40 PM

It's not the most common symptom of bowel cancer but it can be one.  Internal bleeding is also not the only cause of low iron.

Do you have any other symptoms?  Tarry black stool?  Stool with what looks like coffee grounds in it?

#3 cinnabubble

Posted 23 June 2015 - 03:48 PM

I was found to have a giant fibroid that was making me anaemic.

#4 newbutold

Posted 23 June 2015 - 03:51 PM

If he has suggested a colonoscopy it could be that they want to check for coeliac disease. Anaemia that is not easy resolved *can* be a symptom of that.

ETA: sorry, I misread! I see he wants to take stool samples. I wouldn't worry too much OP, just sounds like he is looking into it for you which is great. Took me years to get anyone to do any more than give me more and more iron tablets!

Edited by newbutold, 23 June 2015 - 03:52 PM.


#5 RockingChair

Posted 23 June 2015 - 03:52 PM

Acidulous osprey - stools are normal in colour and appearance can alter depending on what I have eaten the night before.  Blood tests reveal kidneys and liver are happy with the extremely low iron levels being the only indication of something not right.  Platelet levels are higher then normal but doctor doesn't seem concerned about that.  I have also been tested for vitamin B12, folate and h pylori.

#6 RockingChair

Posted 23 June 2015 - 03:56 PM

Cinnabubble - I had a pelvic ultrasound a year ago as it was suspected I may have a uterine prolapse.  Turns out uterus is normal along with ovaries.  I then went to a gynaecologist and was diagnosed with a rectocele that does not require surgery at this stage.  The gynaecologist also requested a have a ultrasound on bladder and kidneys which were also fine.

#7 purplekitty

Posted 23 June 2015 - 03:59 PM

Bowel cancer can cause bleeding which can cause anaemia but is not the only diagnosis.
In fact, it is unlikely.

Your doctor is being cautious and competent by investigating and not simply treating the anaemia.

#8 RockingChair

Posted 23 June 2015 - 04:00 PM

Newbutold - the lady in pathology (in doctors surgery) said this doctor always requests stool samples be tested when patients present with low iron.  I know he is being thorough and grateful that he hasn't brushed it off, but I can't help but worry.  I guess it is more the unanswered questions at the moment.  He did say iron tablets would take too long to work so I would need an injection, but he will wait on next lot of tests first.

#9 It's a Mummy

Posted 23 June 2015 - 04:00 PM

Yes it can be. It can also be hundreds of other things. Don't panic yet.

#10 Bluestocking

Posted 23 June 2015 - 04:01 PM

How heavy are your periods?

I have low iron a lot but my doctor has put it down to periods. Mine are on the heavy side of normal. My bloods have gotten as low as 13.

Sounds like you have a very thorough doctor. Try not to stress until you actually have some results to worry about. Could be nothing at all :)

#11 RockingChair

Posted 23 June 2015 - 04:03 PM

Thank you purplekitty.  He is being cautious and competent by investigating and not simply treating the anaemia.  I become very anxious when waiting on test results but trying hard not to be.

#12 newbutold

Posted 23 June 2015 - 04:03 PM

I agree that your doctor sounds thorough. It sounds like you are in safe hands.

I hope they get to the bottom of it (no pun intended) soon for you. hugs.

#13 Acidulous Osprey

Posted 23 June 2015 - 04:06 PM

How's your B12 level?

#14 RockingChair

Posted 23 June 2015 - 04:06 PM

Lady Excentrique - my periods are normal/heavy but totally wipe me out.  Not surprising considering my Ferritin level is 9!!!

#15 RockingChair

Posted 23 June 2015 - 04:09 PM

Acidulus Osprey - the blood test I had last night is also testing my vitamin B12 level so I won't know until I get those results back.

#16 Acidulous Osprey

Posted 23 June 2015 - 04:12 PM

We had no luck treating my son's anaemia orally until we treated the B12 level.  He doesn't have pernicious anaemia but his malabsorption seems to mimic it

#17 Maserati Mum

Posted 25 June 2015 - 04:55 PM

Sounds like you have a great GP, other than the fact s/he said you must be bleeding internally, which is a bit over the top - there are lots of non-serious causes of low iron (heavy periods, leftover effects from pregnancy, issues with absorption, or even just lack of iron eaten in your diet).

I also have low iron (it was 3 in pregnancy which required weekly injections) and I also had rectal bleeding, so my GP ordered me to have a colonoscopy and endoscopy. They both came back clear, and as I suspected the rectal bleeding was from birth-related haemorrhoids, rather than anything sinister.

It's good you're getting checked out and I know how awful waiting is, because we can't help but worry! But just keep in mind the odds are it's for a simple, non-sinister reason. Good luck!

#18 SplashingRainbows

Posted 25 June 2015 - 07:08 PM

I was anaemic due to both low iron and low b12. The cause was coeliac disease.
After the blood test checking for gluten antibodies I was referred to a gastroenterologist for a gastroscopy (not colonoscopy). This is the standard procedure for diagnosing coeliac disease.

Treatment is a gluten free diet. Gluten free diet must not be started before diagnosis as it can cause a false result in testing. Just in case you were thinking it cant hurt to go gluten free it actually can so don't do that yet.

I also had iron injections and b12 injections regularly for a while to get my levels back up without needing the digestive system (which clearly wasn't working well!).

It could be something simple like coeliac disease yet so don't stress too much.

Edited by SplashingRainbows, 25 June 2015 - 07:09 PM.


#19 Soontobegran

Posted 25 June 2015 - 07:23 PM

My 0 iron levels were from heavy periods and this is the more likely cause of anaemia in a menstruating women.

Sounds like your doctor is doing the standard investigations when someone presents with anaemia with an unknown cause.
Good luck to you.

#20 Quay11

Posted 25 June 2015 - 07:24 PM

Sounds like you GP is onto it. I had one at a clinic that I don't normally use who looked at the "anemia of chronic disease" on the results form and said that maybe my red blood cells just don't last as long as other people's and sent me on my way. Knowing what I know now I wish I'd demanded a specialist referral to a haematologist.

As it was I had an extremely rare underlying immune system issue that was causing my anaemia. I ended up seeing an immunologist and on medication and feel much much better.

#21 *cough*

Posted 25 June 2015 - 07:43 PM

I've had anaemia for more than 13 years now. I've been so thoroughly tested and investigated it is ridiculous. The official diagnosis now? Ongoing slow bleed in my gut somewhere ie from tummy to bum that cannot be found through scopes and pill cameras. I've tried everything over the years and simply do not absorb iron or hold it. Now I just have iron transfusions every 12 months to 2 years. My new heam is so great, I just call his office when I feel it's bad and they book me in for a transfusion. I go from being fine to feeling sheer exhaustion in about 8 weeks. It's good to get it investigated but you might not get a perfect answer in the end but it is good your doctor is testing.

#22 My4beautifulboys

Posted 14 May 2019 - 11:17 PM

Cough* I was just searching Eb and came across this post from some time ago. Hope all is ok for you OP.
I also struggle with my iron levels, have done for over 10 years since the birth of my second child. I’ve taken all manner of iron supplements but to no avail. About 15 months ago I had my first iron infusion. Felt fantastic afterwards with very few side effects.
But now my ferritin level is back down to marginal. So my doctor is referring me for a capsule test, to check nothing is being missed. I also can’t help but worry, that it’s not some thing more serious.
But good that he’s being thorough.
It may just be that I also need regular iron infusions.

#23 Sincerely

Posted 14 May 2019 - 11:37 PM

 *cough*, on 25 June 2015 - 07:43 PM, said:

I've had anaemia for more than 13 years now. I've been so thoroughly tested and investigated it is ridiculous. The official diagnosis now? Ongoing slow bleed in my gut somewhere ie from tummy to bum that cannot be found through scopes and pill cameras. I've tried everything over the years and simply do not absorb iron or hold it. Now I just have iron transfusions every 12 months to 2 years. My new heam is so great, I just call his office when I feel it's bad and they book me in for a transfusion. I go from being fine to feeling sheer exhaustion in about 8 weeks. It's good to get it investigated but you might not get a perfect answer in the end but it is good your doctor is testing.

I've just posted in the newer thread started by M4BB. TMPRSS6 gene expression regulates hepcidin and therefore iron absorption by GIT cells. Therefore, some TMPRSS6 variants can cause iron refractory iron deficiency anaemia.


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