Bowel cancer warning signs you should never ignore

bowel cancer warning signsCC: Franck V at Unsplash

As the third most common type of cancer among men and women in the United States, bowel cancer isn’t worth ignoring. Many states now run bowel cancer screening programs. However, it’s still worth learning more about bowel cancer warning signs. Being able to identify them could help you approach your physician if you’re not eligible for screening.

Changes to your toilet habits

Although most people don’t actively track their toilet habits, some of the biggest bowel cancer warning signs involve the way they change. For example, if you become constipated or experience diarrhea for more than four weeks you should see your doctor. In some cases, these changes could be due to lifestyle factors. If you’ve recently changed your diet or you’re trying a new medication, you may not need to worry.

One of the biggest bowel cancer warning signs: blood

Rectal bleeding is one of the more worrying bowel cancer warning signs. However, it’s important to note that it can also occur for other reasons. For example, hemorrhoids or diverticulitis. If the bleeding is only present on your tissue paper when you wipe, it’s unlikely that bowel cancer is the cause. However, if it’s mixed in with your stool or in the toilet bowl you should see your doctor urgently. In either case, asking a physician to identify the cause is always wise.

Abnormal sensations in your bowel

If you’re suddenly feeling more gassy than usual or you’re experiencing stomach cramps, this may be a bowel cancer warning sign. Like many abdominal complaints, it could also be due to another less worrying cause. For example, celiac disease. But if you do experience unusual sensations that persist it’s worth asking your physician for a screening test. Another common symptom is feeling full faster when you eat. And you should also watch out for a symptom called tenesmus, which involves feeling as though you haven’t fully emptied your bowel after defecating.

Later signs include unexplained weight loss


One of the later bowel cancer warning signs is unexplained weight loss. This occurs with multiple forms of cancer and can act as an indicator that the disease has spread. However, it’s a good idea to place any recent weight loss within the context of your lifestyle habits. If you’ve recently begun trying to lose weight, it’s unlikely that you need to worry. Or if you’re experiencing a period of stress or you’ve started working in a more active job, there may be no cause for concern.

Bowel cancer warning signs are sometimes subtle, so if you do have any concerns always discuss them with a medical professional.

About the Author

Laura McKeever
Laura has been a freelance medical writer for eight years. With a BSc in Medical Sciences and an MSc in Physician Assistant Studies, she complements her passion for medical news with real-life experiences. Laura’s most significant experience included writing for international pharmaceutical brands, including GSK.