Bowel Cancer Symptoms, Self-Testing And How To Check Your Poo

“The first step, therefore, you need check regarding your bowels, is if there is a change in your bowel movements that lasts longer than 3-4 weeks. We all get brief changes when we’re on holiday or dieting or eating something that didn’t agree with us, but a prolonged change needs investigating.”

Amina adds that it’s important to take note of any changes and symptoms. “Some common changes include loser bowel motions, sluggish movements and feeling more constipated, thinner movements (as if they’ve been squeezed out), intermittent loose and hard stool,” she adds.

“It is also important to check for blood, especially if it’s within the stool and not just coating or on wiping. Blood on wiping is usually a symptom of haemorrhoids or anal tissue, but I would still run it past my GP.”

Look out for Black stool, Amina advises. “Frequently, this can be related to digested blood from the stomach or small intestine. However, if this colour only appears on occasion, this may be a side effect from iron treatments, supplements or dark-coloured foods and drinks.” She also lists the following symptoms:

Pale stool – frequently, this can be related to liver problems and reduced bile production.

Pellets  – most commonly caused by constipation. Causes of constipation may be due to diet or problems with intestinal function.

Long-standing loose stools – can be related to IBS, overactive thyroid, coeliac disease or specific food irritations.

Bloody stools – signs of bowel cancer or haemorrhoids and fissures

Oily stool/difficult to flush – signs of malabsorption

Mucus with stool – sign of inflamed bowel.

Other symptoms, unrelated to poo but important to note for personal bowel health, include weight loss that is unexplained by diet changes, change (usually loss) of appetite, abdominal pain and bloating/distension.

What to do if something is abnormal?

Amina advises that if you notice any changes is to call is your GP as they will take a full history of your symptoms and compare these to previously investigated symptoms, followed by an examination of the abdomen to feel for any tenderness or lumps and usually an examination of the back passage is also required to identify any blood.

“They will usually offer you a blood test with a marker of potential bowel disease and then refer you to a specialist centre under the NHS cancer pathway, which ensures all patients are assessed with primary investigations within two weeks,” she explains.

Amina adds: “Usually, this includes a colonoscopy (full vowel) or sigmoidoscopy (last third of bowel) camera test to look for cancer growing within the bowels. Biopsies (small tissue samples) are all taken, and if polyps are found, they are also removed for review under the microscope by a specialist histopathologist.

Always consult your GP if you notice any changes in your faeces or feel you are experiencing any of the above symptoms. If you are keen to learn more about bowel cancer, visit the NHS website and as good starting points for clear information.