Bowel cancer symptoms: Bloody stools – are they caused by haemorrhoids or the disease?

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A diet high in red or processed meats, being overweight and drinking alcohol can increase your risk of developing bowel cancer. If you’ve already notice blood coming from your behind, you might be rightly concerned. The NHS make clear that for bloody stools to be considered a symptom of bowel cancer, it has to follow certain criteria. For instance, more than 90 percent of people with bowel cancer will experience bloody stools with one of the following other signs:

  • A persistent change in bowel habit
  • Abdominal pain, discomfort, or bloating brought on by eating

Changes in bowel habits

This symptom of bowel cancer means you’re “pooing more often, with looser, runner poos”.

This can be accompanied by stomach pain, and this could lead to a reduction in the amount of food eaten and weight loss.

What about those 10 percent of people who aren’t likely to experience a combination of bowel cancer symptoms?

The first thing one must do is rule out the possibility blood in the stools could be caused by haemorrhoids (otherwise known as piles).

Piles are “lumps inside and around your anus”, which can cause bright red blood after you poo.

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Another sign of piles is an itchy anus; the anus can be painful or have lumps.

There may be slimy mucus in your underwear or on the toilet paper after wiping your bottom.

Feeling like you still need to poo after going to the toilet can also be an indication of piles.

Piles usually resolve themselves after a few days, but there are treatment options available and prevention methods.

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Treatments can include creams to ease the pain, itching and swelling, or cold packs to ease discomfort. Options are also available to help constipation and soften poo.

The NHS advises people to “gently push a pile back inside” and to take a paracetamol if it hurts.

Exercise is encouraged, alongside cutting down on alcohol and caffeinated beverages to avoid constipation.

A warm bath can help to ease itching and pain, and wiping your bottom with damp toilet paper is advised.

People are warned not to take ibuprofen if the piles are bleeding, or to take painkillers that contain codeine as they cause constipation.

To not make matters worse, don’t ignore the urge to poo and try not to strain on the toilet.

If blood in your stools persists for three weeks or longer, do book an appointment with your GP.

A doctor will discuss your symptoms and check whether you have a family history of bowel cancer.

It’s likely a digital rectal examination will follow alongside an examination of your stomach.

Although these tests can feel embarrassing for some, they’re over within a minute or two.

The GP may also book you in for a blood test to check if you have iron deficiency anaemia.

If the doctor is concerned you may have bowel cancer you will be referred to the hospital for a flexible sigmoidoscopy.

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