Bowel cancer warning signs

Dr David Roche / 04 November 2014

Saga's Dr Roche flags up the early warning signs of bowel cancer.

Bowel cancer signs

Apart, presumably, from pain, are there any pre-warning signs or symptoms of bowel cancer?

Funnily enough pain is one of the least likely symptoms that you might experience with bowel cancer. It is only likely in the more advanced stages.  

Two particular symptoms need to be looked for, a change in bowel habit or painlessly passing blood when having your bowels open.

A change in habit would mean a sustained increase in the number of times you go per day, persistent loose bowels or the gradual onset of constipation. This change would need to be sustained over several weeks as we can all experience variations from time to time.

Blood from a cancer of the bowel is usually mixed in with the bowel motion and can be red in colour if it is from low down in the bowel or dark in colour if it is from higher up.  

In contrast, blood from haemorrhoids (piles) is always bright red in colour and more often seen on the paper or in the toilet water than in the bowel motion. There may also be some discomfort around the anus with piles, though not always.

These changes can be difficult to interpret as you can probably appreciate, sometimes bowel cancer can be very difficult to spot. If you are in doubt with either of these key symptoms then discuss them with your GP.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.