First – the really comforting news. Most of us have bowel problems at some time in our lives but most symptoms do not turn out to be cancer. Lots of people have common conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and piles – 1-20 of us has bleeding from the bottom (rectal bleeding) especially younger people but most people with rectal bleeding do not have cancer.

The commonest symptoms are CHANGE OF BOWEL HABIT and RECTAL BLEEDING – it’s important to know the higher risk symptoms and to see your GP if you think you might have them:

Higher Risk Symptoms:

  • Change of Bowel Habit: a recent persistent change which lasts for a few weeks without returning to normal
  • Going to the loo, or trying to go, several more times than is normal for you
  • Looser, more diarrhoea-like motions, especially important if accompanied by bleeding
  • Rectal Bleeding: which persists without an obvious reason like straining, sore bottom, lumps and itching. Bleeding from the back passage persistently without any of these symptoms must be investigated
  • Unexplained Anaemia: men with anaemia should usually be investigated for bowel cancer. Women who experience unexplained anaemia after the menopause should also be investigated
  • Lumps in the tummy which can be felt by the doctor
  • Severe colicky tummy pain which comes on suddenly and persists