Bowel cancer is one of the most common types of cancer diagnosed in the UK and spotting the symptoms early can ensure a better chance of survival. Symptoms listed by the NHS include a persistent change in bowel habit and abdominal pain and bloating.
Another sign to look out for is the colour of your poo.
Poo that’s dark red in colour or black could be cause for concern, according to Ramsay Health Care.
It details to look out for blood in stools – “more than a few drops of bright blood, stool contains darker red blood and can appear black like tar”.
It adds: “Most often, if blood is bright fresh blood, the bleeding is caused by an anal tear or piles.
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Bowel cancer symptoms: What colour is your poo? It could be a sign of the disease
“Blood from higher up in the bowel goes dark red or black and can make your stools look like tar.
“This type of bleeding can be a sign of bowel cancer.
“Consult your doctor immediately.”
In some cases, bowel cancer can stop digestive waste passing through the bowel. This is known as bowel obstruction.
The NHS says symptoms of bowel obstruction can include:
- Intermittent, and occasionally severe, abdominal pain – this is always brought on by eating
- Unintentional weight loss – with persistent abdominal pain
- Contact swelling of the tummy – with abdominal pain
- Being sick – with constant abdominal swelling
The health body adds: “A bowel obstruction is a medical emergency.
“If you suspect your bowel is obstructed go to the accident and emergency (A&E) department of your nearest hospital.”
Bowel cancer symptoms: Dark red or black poo can be a sign
During the coronavirus crisis people have been advised to stay at home to reduce the risk of the virus spreading.
Cancer Research UK advises what to do if you think you have symptoms that could be cancer.
It says: “You should still contact your GP if you have a symptom that might be caused by cancer.
“Your GP can talk to you on the telephone or online. They will ask about your symptoms and tell you if you need to go in to see them or another GP.”
The exact cause of bowel cancer is unknown, but some factors have been linked to increased risk of getting the disease.
Bowel Cancer UK lists the following risk factors:
- Aged over 50
- A strong family history of bowel cancer
- A history of non-cancerous growths in your bowel
- Longstanding inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
- Type 2 diabetes
- An unhealthy lifestyle
The charity adds: “You are more at risk of getting bowel cancer if you have one or more of the following risk factors.
“This doesn’t mean that you will definitely get bowel cancer.
“Equally, if you don’t have any risk factors, it doesn’t mean you can’t get bowel cancer.”