Strathfield Private Hospital
Part of Ramsay Health Care

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What does bowel cancer look like (and do I need to see a doctor)?

Jun 17, 2019

June marks Bowel Cancer Awareness Month but many people still don’t know the symptoms. We’ve compiled a list of signs to indicate it could be time to see your doctor.

You can develop bowel cancer with few early warning signs. Some symptoms include:

Change in bowel habits

Any change in bowel movements that continue for eight weeks, could signal a trip to the doctor. Abnormal bowel movements will vary from person to person, but it can be anything from a loose bowel motion, constipation or narrowing of the stool.

Blood in stool or rectal bleeding

Seeing blood in the toilet can be concerning but in most cases, people with minor rectal bleeding won’t have bowel cancer. But it is still an important symptom to keep an eye out for and anyone who notices it should speak to their doctor. Bright red blood, or dark coloured blood should never be ignored.

Mucus in stool

A noticeable increase in mucus in the stool isn’t normal and can be the sign of an underlying health condition, such as bowel cancer. It’s important to monitor the changes and speak to your doctor, especially if the excess mucus is accompanied by other symptoms.

Abdominal pain / cramps

This can be a symptom of bowel cancer but it can be linked to numerous other health issues and is not always an indication of something serious. Things to look out for include recurring bloating, stomach cramps and severe abdominal pain.

Unexplained anaemia

Anaemia can be caused by various health issues but can also be linked to bowel cancer due to bleeding caused by the cancer. Incidentally, most patients diagnosed with bowel cancer will also have anaemia.

Other symptoms can include urgency to defaecate, rectal pain or a lump or mass in the tummy.

Strathfield Private Hospital colorectal surgeon Dr Michael Suen has expertise in bowel cancer prevention and minimally invasive bowel cancer treatment and is trying to encourage more people to get screened.

“90% of bowel cancer cases can be treated successfully if they are detected early. Getting screened for bowel cancer, can help to do this,” he says.


Editor’s note: This article is of a general nature only and is not intended as personal advice. Ramsay Health Care recommends seeking medical advice specific to your individual circumstances.