The main indications of bowel cancer are blood in the stools, changes in bowel habit (frequent, looser stools), persistent bloating 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 three 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:
Blood in the stools without other haemorrhoid symptoms
A persistent change in bowel habit without blood in their stools, but often with abdominal pain
Abdominal pain, discomfort or bloating always provoked by eating, sometimes resulting in a reduced appetite and weight loss.