Symptoms

Bowel cancer symptoms

The three main symptoms of bowel cancer are blood in the stools, changes in bowel habit (either frequent, looser stools or constipation)
and abdominal pain. All these symptoms are very common and most people with them do not have bowel cancer – for example, passing blood is more often caused by haemorrhoids and a change in bowel habit or abdominal pain is most often the result of something you have eaten.

If you have any of these symptoms and they persist for longer than six weeks despite over-the-counter medications, you should speak
to your GP. As almost 9 out of 10 people with bowel cancer are over the age of 60, these symptoms are more important as people get older.
They are also more significant when they persist despite simple treatments.

The symptoms of bowel cancer can be subtle and don’t necessarily make you feel ill but most people who are eventually diagnosed
experience at least one of the following:


  • A persistent change in bowel habit without blood in their stools, but with abdominal pain
  • Blood in the stools without other haemorrhoid symptoms
  • Abdominal pain, discomfort or bloating always provoked by eating, sometimes resulting
    in a reduced appetite and weight loss.


Further information

Read more about the symptoms of bowel cancer.
If you’re unsure about your symptoms, the NHS bowel cancer symptom checker might be helpful
Health matters: improving the prevention and detection of bowel cancer

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