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Bowel cancer: Have you noticed an odd colour in your poo? Dark black poo is a warning sign

Bowel cancer symptoms explained by Doctor Richard Roope

Bowel cancer is a general term for cancerous cells that multiply uncontrollably in the large bowel (colon and rectum). If it’s detected early enough, treatment can cure bowel cancer and stop it coming back. Unfortunately, because the symptoms of bowel cancer can be subtle and doesn’t necessarily make one feel ill, it is not usually picked up until it has advanced. Noticing odd colours in the toilet bowl could be an indication and a possible warning, however.

Symptoms of bowel cancer can include a change in one’s normal bowel habit or noticing a very different colour in your stools.

Blood from higher up in the bowel doesn’t look bright red, said Cancer Research UK.

The health site added: “It goes dark red or black and can make your bowel motions look like tar.

“This type of bleeding can be a sign of cancer higher up the bowel.”

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Poo that’s dark red in colour or black could be cause for concern, according to Ramsay Health Care.

It details how to look out for blood in stools – “more than a few drops of bright blood, stool contains darker red blood and can appear black like tar”.

It adds: “Most often, if blood is bright fresh blood, the bleeding is caused by an anal tear or piles.

“Blood from higher up in the bowel goes dark red or black and can make your stools look like tar.

“This type of bleeding can be a sign of bowel cancer.

“Consult your doctor immediately.”

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Cancer Research listed other symptoms of bowel cancer to look out for which include:

  • Bleeding from the back passage (rectum) or blood in your poo
  • A change in your normal bowel habit, such as looser poo, pooping more often or constipation
  • A lump that your doctor can feel in your back passage or tummy (abdomen), more commonly on the right side
  • A feeling of needing to strain in your back passage (as if you need to poo), even after opening your bowels
  • Losing weight
  • Pain in your abdomen or back passage
  • Tiredness and breathlessness caused by a lower-than-normal level of red blood cells (anaemia).

Sometimes cancer can block the bowel. This is called a bowel obstruction. The symptoms include:

  • Cramping pains in the abdomen
  • Feeling bloated
  • Constipation and being unable to pass wind
  • Being sick.

You should see your GP if your change in bowel habit persists for more than four weeks.

But just because you notice a subtle change to your bowel habit, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have bowel cancer.

The doctor will assess whether you may be at risk of the disease by asking about your symptoms, and whether you have a family history of bowel cancer.

Your GP could subsequently refer you to a specialist for further investigation.

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