Tomlin Paul | When you see blood!
Even though you may tend to neglect your health, there are some things which you just cannot ignore and which will put you on a fast track to the doctor's office.
"Doc, I had to come and see you today. I saw blood this morning when I went to the bathroom!" My 55-year-old female patient explains that it was, in fact, when she passed her stool.
"It was really scary, bright red and a lot!" she voices with a sense of doom.
BLOOD INSIDE AND OUTSIDE
Seeing blood where it is not supposed to be is always a cause for concern. Although our bodies run on blood, all five litres of this circulating life fluid is well contained in something called blood vessels. As much as we are very grateful for blood, we really don't need to see it. When it shows up on the outside of our bodies, outside of the menstrual period, it is not a good thing and needs definite follow-up.
Here are some instances where seeing blood calls for action.
Blood when you pass stool - Everyone loves to blame this on piles or haemorrhoids, but be careful! About 90 per cent of colon and rectal cancer patients initially thought they had hemorrhoids because of rectal bleeding. We always need to take a look higher up. You may need a special X-ray or colon test (colonoscopy) to see your entire colon to find the true source of bleeding.
Blood in your urine - If you can actually see the red of blood in your urine with your naked eyes, then something is definitely wrong. There may be stones, tumours, inflammation, among other things, affecting the kidney or the rest of the urinary passage and structures. Men, go get your prostate checked!
Coughing up blood - sometimes a feature of bad infections of the sinus or lungs, but can be a sign of more serious disease of the lungs, such as tumours. Whether you smoked or not in the past, you must check it out.
Blood from your nipples - May be a breaking down of the tiny milk tubes, but can also be a sign of breast cancer even though you may not be feeling any lump.
Blood from the nose - Infections and chronic sinus problems, but also tumours and high blood pressure could be lurking behind this.
Blood from the vagina - Your periods have stopped and you have journeyed past menopause and you start bleeding again. Don't assume it is okay! A check-up on the vagina and womb is mandatory as it could be a growth on the cervix or the lining of your womb.
In all of the above, there may also be a problem with the blood itself or some medication that's affecting how the blood clots. As you move past fifty you do stand a higher chance of finding blood in some unexpected place. Let that red sign be a true signal to stop and take stock of what is happening with your precious body.
• Dr Tomlin Paul is a family physician at Health Plus Associates in Kingston; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.