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Bowel cancer warning signs - how to check your poo for first symptoms

Daily Mirror1d

The main symptoms of bowel cancer include unusual changes to your poo and different colour and shaped stools. Spotting the early signs is imperative for earlier treatment of the disease

Signs in your poo warning of cancer
Changes in your poo could indicate bowel cancer

Bowel cancer has a high mortality rate, which experts believe could be due to the relative lack of symptoms in the early stages of the disease.

For this reason, more than 60% of cases are diagnosed when the cancer has already spread regionally or to distant organs.

Many healthcare professionals are discovering the age of their bowel cancer patients keeps going down.

In fact, in the last 10 years, they’ve noticed more patients in their 30s, 20s and even teens getting diagnosed – something that used to be considered incredibly rare.

Many people remain nonchalant when changes in toilet habits or stool shape and colours occur - which could prove to be fatal.

Bowel cancer symptoms found in your poo

The NHS states changes in bowel habit is one of the main warning symptoms of the disease, which includes having more frequent and looser stools.

In terms of the stool’s appearance, major indicators also include blood in your poo.

However, this is unlikely to be the usual bright red colour, warns Cancer Research UK.

“Blood from higher up in the bowel doesn't look bright red,” says the health charity.

“It goes dark red or black and can make your poo look like tar.

“This type of bleeding can be a sign of cancer higher up the bowel.”

Narrow stools

Narrow 'pencil-like' stools are another major indicator, warns Very Well Health, "caused by the narrowing of the intestinal passage as the tumour starts to grow".

“Narrow stools that occur infrequently probably are harmless,” added the Mayo Clinic.

“However, in some cases, narrow stools — especially if pencil thin — may be a sign of narrowing or obstruction of the colon due to colon cancer.”

Other bowel cancer symptoms

It's wise to speak to your doctor if you notice the following:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Pain in your tummy (abdomen) or back passage
  • Feeling that you have not emptied your bowel properly after you poo
  • Unexplained tiredness, dizziness or breathlessness
  • A lower than normal level of red blood cells (anaemia)

Who's at risk of getting bowel cancer?

The exact cause of bowel cancer is not known, but there are a number of things that can increase your risk.

The NHS says that smoking may increase your chances of getting bowel cancer, and that bowel cancer is more common in overweight or obese people.

The health body adds: “Some people also have an increased risk of bowel cancer because they've had another condition, such as extensive ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease in the colon for more than 10 years.”

“If you have rectal bleeding, if you notice a change in your bowel habits or the size of your stool or you’re having vague abdominal pain, those are reasons to see a doctor,” warns Dr Mukta Krane.

“Especially at your age where normally you may just say, ‘I’m busy, I don’t think this is anything. I’m just going to see what happens.’

“I think listening to those symptoms, and then I think advocating for yourself when you’re at the doctor’s office and saying, ‘I’m experiencing bleeding, it’s been increasing, I know it just may be haemorrhoids, but I’ve heard about colorectal cancer. Can we talk about whether I should be screened for it?’” Dr Krane added.