Bowel cancer symptoms
Some people have no symptoms and the cancer is found through screening. However, many people with bowel cancer do experience symptoms. These can include:
- blood in faeces (poo) or on the toilet paper
- a change in bowel habit, such as diarrhoea, constipation or smaller, more frequent bowel movements
- a change in the look of faeces (e.g. narrower or with mucus)
- a feeling of fullness or bloating in the abdomen (belly) or a strange sensation in the rectum, often during a bowel movement
- feeling that the bowel hasn’t emptied completely
- losing weight for no obvious reason
- 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 or iron deficiency), which can cause tiredness and weakness
- a blockage in the bowel.
Most people with these symptoms don’t have bowel cancer. These symptoms can be caused by other conditions, such as haemorrhoids, diverticulitis (inflammation of pouches in the bowel), inflammatory bowel disease, or an anal fissure (cracks in the skin lining the anus). If you have any bleeding or other symptoms, see your doctor.
Podcast for people affected by cancer
A/Prof David A Clark, Colorectal Surgeon, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, and The University of Queensland, QLD, and The University of Sydney, NSW; A/Prof Siddhartha Baxi, Radiation Oncologist and Medical Director, GenesisCare Gold Coast, QLD; Dr Hooi Ee, Specialist Gastroenterologist and Head, Department of Gastroenterology, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, WA; Annie Harvey, Consumer; A/Prof Louise Nott, Medical Oncologist, Icon Cancer Centre, Hobart, TAS; Caley Schnaid, Accredited Practising Dietitian, GenesisCare, St Leonards and Frenchs Forest, NSW; Chris Sibthorpe, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland; Dr Alina Stoita, Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist, St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney, NSW; Catherine Trevaskis, Gastrointestinal Cancer Specialist Nurse, Canberra Hospital, ACT; Richard Vallance, Consumer.
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