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Bowel cancer health centre

Signs and symptoms of bowel cancer

NHS Choices Medical Reference

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Early bowel cancer may have no symptoms and some symptoms of later bowel cancer can also occur in people with less serious medical problems, such as

haemorrhoids

(piles).

See your doctor if you notice any of the symptoms below.

The initial symptoms of bowel cancer include:

  • blood in your stools (faeces) or bleeding from your rectum
  • a change to your normal bowel habits that persists for more than three weeks, such as diarrhoeaconstipation or passing stools more frequently than usual
  • abdominal pain 
  • unexplained weight loss

As bowel cancer progresses, it can sometimes cause bleeding inside the bowel. Eventually, this can lead to your body not having enough red blood cells. This is known as anaemia.

Symptoms of anaemia include:

  • fatigue
  • breathlessness

In some cases, bowel cancer can cause an obstruction in the bowel. Symptoms of a bowel obstruction include:

  • a feeling of bloating, usually around the belly button
  • abdominal pain
  • constipation
  • vomiting

When to seek medical advice

See your GP if you have any of the symptoms above. While the symptoms are unlikely to be the result of bowel cancer, these types of symptoms always need to be investigated further.

Want to know more?

Medical Review: August 27, 2012

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