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Bowel cancer symptoms: The two colours in your poo that can signal the deadly disease


Bowel cancer is a general term for cancer that begins in the large bowel, which houses the colon, rectum and anus. When cancerous cells multiply and divide in this region, it plays havoc to your digestive symptoms. This can interfere with how waste is processed and flushed out.

As a result, many of the warning signs associated with bowel cancer can surface in your poo.

If you poo is red or black, it may signal you have blood in it, warns the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics.

Bloody poo is one of the main warning signs of bowel cancer.

“If you are experiencing bloody stools or bleeding from a bowel movement, you may need to see a doctor,” notes the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics.

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According two the health body, bloody stools can look like:

  • Red blood mixed with the stool
  • Red blood covering the stool
  • Black or tarry stool
  • Dark blood mixed with the stool.

Other warning signs of bowel cancer include:

  • A persistent change in bowel habit – pooing more often, with looser, runnier poos and sometimes tummy (abdominal) pain
  • Abdominal pain, discomfort or bloating always brought on by eating – sometimes resulting in a reduction in the amount of food eaten and weight loss.

According to the NHS, you should see a GP if you have any of the symptoms of bowel cancer for three weeks or more.

“When you first see a GP, they’ll ask about your symptoms and whether you have a family history of bowel cancer,” explains the health body.


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“They’ll usually carry out a simple examination of your bottom, known as a digital rectal examination (DRE), and examine your tummy (abdomen).”

This is a useful way of checking whether there are any lumps in your tummy or bottom (rectum).

Am I at risk?

The exact cause of bowel cancer is unknown. However, research has shown several factors may make you more likely to develop it.

Your risk of developing bowel (colon and rectal) cancer depends on many things including age, genetics and lifestyle factors.

Having one or more risk factors doesn’t mean that you will definitely get bowel cancer.

The role of some parts of our diet remains unknown or uncertain. But researchers do know that some foods can definitely affect the risk of bowel cancer.

Many studies have shown that eating lots of red and processed meat increases the risk of bowel cancer.

According to Cancer Research UK, it is estimated that around 13 out of 100 bowel cancer cases (around 13 percent) in the UK are linked to eating these meats.

Processed meat is any meat that has been treated to preserve it and/or add flavour – for example, bacon, salami, sausages, canned meat, or chicken nuggets.

The government recommends that people eating more than 90g of red and processed meat a day should reduce it to 70g or less.

Other risk factors include:

  • Family history
  • Smoking
  • Age
  • Alcohol
  • Obesity.
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