Bowel Cancer Signs & Symptoms

Bowel cancer is a broad term for cancer that begins in the large bowel, which is made up of the colon and rectum. Bowel cancer is more common in people over the age of 50, but it can affect adults of any age.

It is important to know that symptoms associated with bowel cancer are very common and most people with them do not have bowel cancer. For example, passing blood is more often caused by haemorrhoids, and a change in bowel habit or abdominal pain is most often the result of something you have eaten.

As almost 9 out of 10 people with bowel cancer are over the age of 60, these symptoms are more important as people get older. They are also more significant when they persist despite simple treatments.

If you have any of these symptoms and they persist for longer than three weeks despite over-the-counter medications, you should speak to your GP.

Main symptoms of bowel cancer

Symptoms of bowel cancer may include:

  • changes in your poo, such as having softer poo, diarrhoea or constipation that is not usual for you
  • needing to poo more or less often than usual for you
  • blood in your poo, which may look red or black
  • bleeding from your bottom
  • often feeling like you need to poo, even if you’ve just been to the toilet
  • tummy pain
  • a lump in your tummy
  • bloating
  • losing weight without trying
  • feeling very tired for no reason


What is the bowel cancer symptom I should be most aware of?

Symptoms vary from person to person, so be aware of them all! The most common signs are bleeding from the back passage (rectum) or blood in your poo, a change in your normal bowel habit, such as looser poo, pooing more often or constipation. You may also feel bloated or have a lump in your abdomen, particularly on the right-hand side. Unexplained weight loss is another less specific sign and so is tiredness and anaemia. Seek medical advice if you have any of these symptoms and they persist for more than three weeks.

What’s the difference between bowel cancer and colon cancer?

Bowel and colon are different names for the large intestine. You may also hear the term colorectal cancer. A cancer in the large intestine may be identified by any of these terms but they are essentially the same thing.

Do men and women experience different symptoms?

No. Symptoms may vary according to the stage of the cancer or its location in the gut but they are not gender specific. Although bowel cancer is slightly more common in men, women could potentially interpret some symptoms as menstrual or menopausal signs. Persisting symptoms should not be ignored by anyone.

My symptoms come and go, should I be concerned?

Bowel cancer symptoms tend to persist but even if your symptoms vary from day to day, if they remain after three weeks or so, make an appointment to see your GP.

I have another question I can’t find the answer to, can you help?

Contact us with your question – we will ask one of our clinicians and get back to you.

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