Bowel cancer symptoms

In its early stages, bowel cancer may have no symptoms. However, many people with bowel cancer experience symptoms. These symptoms of bowel cancer may include:

  • blood in the stools or on the toilet paper
  • a change in bowel habit, such as diarrhoea, constipation or smaller, more frequent bowel movements
  • a change in appearance or consistency of bowel movements (e.g. narrower stools or mucus in stools)
  • a feeling of fullness or bloating in the abdomen or a strange sensation in the rectum, often during a bowel movement
  • feeling that the bowel hasn’t emptied completely after a bowel movement
  • unexplained weight loss
  • weakness or fatigue
  • rectal or anal pain
  • a lump in the rectum or anus
  • abdominal pain or swelling
  • a low red blood cell count (anaemia), which can cause tiredness and weakness.

Not everyone with these symptoms has bowel cancer. Other conditions, such as haemorrhoids, diverticulitis (inflammation of pouches in the bowel wall) or cracks in the anal canal, can also cause these changes.

Changes in bowel function are common and often do not indicate a serious problem. However, any amount of bleeding is not normal and you should see your doctor for a check-up.


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This information was last reviewed in February 2017
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