From IBS and colon cancer to statins and cholesterol, Dr. Zoe Williams your health issues

WELCOME to my redesigned, larger column.

I am inundated with questions from readers covering all sorts of pains, worries and concerns.

dr Zoe Williams reminds readers to see your GP urgently if you experience any sudden and severe symptoms


dr Zoe Williams reminds readers to see your GP urgently if you experience any sudden and severe symptomsCredit: The Sun

And now, as part of the new weekly Sun Health pages, I’ll be able to answer even more each week.

No problem is too big or too small. If you are concerned about anything health related, I am here to help.

So, send your emails on and let me help you tackle those nagging health issues you’ve been putting off.

This week urges you to see your GP if you experience sudden and severe symptoms.

It’s worth getting these things checked out as soon as possible.

Q) I HAVE IBS, but I always worry about getting colon cancer, especially now that I’m in my 50’s. Am I right to worry?

A) Irritable bowel syndrome is a common condition that can affect up to one in five people.

Symptoms include abdominal cramps, bloating, and constipation or diarrhea lasting more than six months.

However, it can only be diagnosed if you have had a blood test to rule out some of the other causes of these symptoms such as celiac disease, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

In women over 50, bloating can also be a sign of ovarian cancer.

If you have IBS, there is no higher risk of developing colon cancer.

The best way to protect yourself from colon cancer is to be aware of the signs and look out for them.

When colon cancer is caught early, it is highly treatable and has a 90 percent survival rate.

Symptoms of colon cancer can include:

  • Bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your stools.
  • A persistent and unexplained change in bowel habits.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Extreme tiredness for no apparent reason.
  • pain or lumps in the abdomen.

In England, 60-74 year olds are given an NHS colorectal cancer screening kit every two years and it is important that those eligible complete this.

Following The Sun’s No Time 2 Lose campaign, the Government agreed to bring the age down to 50 and the NHS is in the process of introducing screening tests for everyone aged 50-59.

Q) I’ve read a lot about statins and cholesterol. At what age would you recommend putting a patient on it? I am a 62 year old woman. When would you put me on statins?

A) Statins are a group of drugs that can help lower the levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood.

High levels of this particular type of cholesterol can increase the risk of atherosclerosis — hardening of the arteries — in some people, which can put you at higher risk of heart attack and stroke.

Primary care physicians would typically suggest statins to patients if they have already been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease.

Or if their personal or family history suggests there’s a ten percent risk — or more — of developing it in the next decade.

We calculate a patient’s ten-year risk using a so-called QRISK2 assessment tool.

Factors such as smoking and diabetes, ethnicity and social background are taken into account. It is not always necessary to start with statins as a preventive measure.

Lifestyle changes such as getting more exercise, quitting smoking, reducing alcohol consumption, eating healthier, and losing weight can all potentially lower LDL cholesterol.

People should be given the opportunity to have their risk reassessed after attempting lifestyle changes.

Q) I AM a 65 year old female and have had a burning sensation down my spine especially around my shoulder blades for the past 3 weeks.

It only happens at night and wakes me up, then I can’t get back to sleep.

I really struggle with lack of sleep because I don’t have the energy to do anything during the day.

I live alone so sometimes it gets a bit scary as sometimes I feel lightheaded.

A) Thank you for contacting us with this complaint. The symptoms you describe can have various causes.

However, you did mention a few red flags there, which means I would urge you to make a rather urgent appointment with a GP.

The location of your pain, combined with the fact that it is present at night and wakes you up, requires close assessment and evaluation by your GP.

Please keep in touch and let me know how your appointment went.

Q) On the first day of my period, my body parts are throbbing and sore so much that I sit there crying. The pain on the first day ruins my day. Help please.

A) The first day of the menstrual cycle, which is also the first day of our period, can be the worst day of the month for many women.

There are a whole range of symptoms that women can experience, it’s not just the abdominal cramps that most people are familiar with.

Did you also know that we are generally more sensitive to pain at the beginning of the period?

It pays to keep a symptom/period diary so you have advance warning and know when to expect your symptoms to appear.

Keeping a journal means you can start pain relief 24 hours before you expect symptoms to appear.

Treating the pain before it starts is far more effective than after it starts.

You can use an app like the Flo app which is a great period tracking device.

Q) I AM 58 and have always enjoyed sex up through menopause. I was prepared for the dryness, but I didn’t realize how painful sex was going to be.

I find penetrative sex with my partner too painful.

I suggested lube but my partner thinks I have an infection.

I’ve tried antibiotics, knowing it’s not a urinary tract infection. What do you suggest?

A) Vaginal dryness and associated pain during sexual intercourse is a very common symptom of menopause.

The good news is that there are treatments that can help.

If you only have vaginal symptoms of menopause and aren’t suffering or coping well with other symptoms, then there are options like vaginal moisturizers and topical estrogen gels that help relieve these symptoms without your body absorbing the hormones systemically.

A monthly ordeal - severe menstrual pain


A monthly ordeal – severe menstrual painCredit: Alamy From IBS and colon cancer to statins and cholesterol, Dr. Zoe Williams your health issues

Sarah Y. Kim

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