The symptoms of bowel cancer can be subtle and don't necessarily make you feel ill. However, it's worth trying simple treatments for a short time to see if they get better.

More than 90% of people with bowel cancer have one of the following combinations of symptoms:

  • a persistent change in bowel habit going more often, with looser stools and sometimes tummy (abdominal) pain
  • blood in the stools withoutother piles (haemorrhoids) symptoms this makes it unlikelythe cause ishaemorrhoids
  • abdominal pain, discomfort or bloating always brought on by eating sometimes resulting in a reduction in the amount of food eaten and weight loss

Constipation , where you pass harder stools less often, is rarely caused by serious bowel conditions.

When to seek medical advice

Although bowel cancersymptoms are very common, you should see your GP if they persist for more than four weeks. Most people with these symptoms don't have bowel cancer.

Try the bowel cancer symptom checker for advice on what treatments you can try to see if your symptoms get better, and when you should see your GP to discuss whether any tests are necessary.

See your doctor if your symptoms persist or keep coming back after stopping treatment, regardless of their severity or your age.

This is known as a bowel obstruction.

Symptoms of a bowel obstruction can include:

  • intermittent, and occasionally severe, abdominal pain thisis always provoked by eating
  • unintentional weight loss with persistent abdominal pain
  • constant swelling of the tummy with abdominal pain
  • vomiting with constant abdominal swelling

A bowel obstruction is a medical emergency. If you suspect your bowel is obstructed, you should see your GP quickly. If this isn't possible, go to the accident and emergency (A&E) department of your nearest hospital.

Want to know more?

  • Association of Coloproctology of Great Britain and Ireland: bowel cancer symptom checker
  • Beating Bowel Cancer: symptoms
  • Bowel Cancer Information: key symptoms
  • Bowel Cancer UK: symptoms of bowel cancer
  • Cancer Research UK: bowel cancer symptoms
  • Macmillan Cancer Support: symptoms of coloncancer
Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 10 Oct 2016