Understanding Bowel Cancer Symptoms “When to See a Doctor”

 Understanding Bowel Cancer Symptoms “When to See a Doctor”


Navigating the complexities of bowel health can be challenging, especially when distinguishing between common issues and signs of something more serious, such as bowel cancer. Experts emphasize that changes in bowel habits and the presence of blood in the stool are significant indicators that should not be ignored.

Bowel cancer, which may develop in the large bowel (colon cancer) or the rectum (rectal cancer), often presents subtle symptoms that may be easily confused with less serious health issues. However, one distinguishing symptom of bowel cancer is the color of the stool, particularly if it contains blood. According to Cancer Research UK, if the blood in the stool appears dark red or black, resembling tar, this could indicate bleeding from higher up in the bowel and requires immediate medical attention.

This type of bleeding could be a sign of cancer or other conditions such as a bleeding stomach ulcer. Dr. Porter, a medical expert with a column in The Times, highlighted bleeding as a common ‘red flag’ symptom. “Bleeding from your bottom, often not cancer but never normal, and/or an unexplained and prolonged change in bowel habit, typically to becoming looser rather than constipated, are red flags,” he explained, reports the Mirror.

These symptoms, particularly if they persist for more than a few weeks, should prompt a consultation with a healthcare provider. Dr. Porter advises those experiencing these symptoms to contact their medical practice immediately, providing details about the symptoms and any relevant family history of bowel cancer. The initial response from a medical professional will likely involve a stool test that can be performed at home.

This test helps to confirm the presence of blood. Additionally, blood tests might be conducted to further assess the health condition. Following these preliminary tests, a comprehensive evaluation typically occurs, involving a physical examination that may include a digital rectal exam. This hands-on assessment allows doctors to detect any abnormalities in the lower bowel and is a critical step in diagnosing bowel conditions, including cancer.

Recognizing the symptoms of bowel cancer early and seeking prompt medical advice can significantly improve the outcomes and provide more effective treatment options. Awareness and understanding of these signs are crucial for anyone experiencing changes in their bowel habits or noticing unusual signs in their stool.

Other possible symptoms of bowel cancer

  • A lump that your doctor can feel in your back passage or tummy (abdomen), more commonly on the right side
  • The feeling of needing to strain in your back passage (as if you need to poo)
  • Weight lose
  • Pain in your abdomen or back passage
  • Tiredness or breathlessness

Symptoms of bowel obstruction

  • Cramping pains in the abdomen
  • Feeling bloated
  • Constipation
  • Being sick

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