Bowel cancer

Noticing symptoms

Bowel cancer

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Cancers and other diseases can cause symptoms. Symptoms are changes in your body that you notice. Bowel cancers often cause changes in the way that your bowel works.

Not all changes in bowel habits are caused by cancer, but it is important to let your doctor know about any symptoms you have.

What you need to know

Bowel cancer symptoms

It is important to be aware of what is normal for you. If there are any changes in your bowel habits speak to your doctor.

Some changes in bowel habits can include:

  • passing blood in your bowel motions (poo, faeces or stool) or noticing blood on the toilet paper
  • diarrhoea, constipation or both of these
  • a change in the appearance of the bowel motions
  • feeling bloated or uncomfortable after passing a bowel motion
  • feeling that there is more motion to pass
  • pain in the rectum or bottom
  • unexplained weight loss.
Most symptoms are not caused by cancer, but it is always best to let your doctor know about any symptoms you have. Cancers that are diagnosed early can be easier to treat.
You may feel embarrassed talking about bowel changes but your doctor is used to this.

Bowel cancer found through screening

Not all bowel cancers are found because of symptoms. Some are found through screening.

Bowel screening is a way of finding early bowel changes before they cause any symptoms. Bowel cancers that are found early are easier to treat.

Australia has a free National Bowel Cancer Screening Program. It is for people who are between the ages of 50 -74 who do not have symptoms. A bowel screening kit is sent by mail every two years to people who are eligible.

For more information contact the National Cancer Screening Register (1800 627 701), talk to your GP, or see our information on cancer screening.

People with a family history of bowel cancer may need a different screening plan. This can include testing more often and from an earlier age. 

Screening is for people who don’t have any symptoms. If you have bowel symptoms, you should see your doctor as soon as possible.

Next steps

What to do if you have symptoms

If you have symptoms that you are worried about, even if they seem minor, you should go to see a GP. Don't be embarrassed to bring up your concerns. 

Remember, cancers that are found earlier can be easier to treat.

Where to get help

There are people you can talk to for more information or support.

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