Bowel cancer warning signs

Written by: Dr Neil Galletly
Edited by: Top Doctors®

Instances of bowel cancer have been steadily increasing for the past few decades, but perhaps the most concerning trend we are seeing today is the sharp increase among younger adults. This is largely preventable. Cutting down on processed meat and alcohol, stopping smoking, losing weight, increasing fibre intake and exercising regularly, will significantly reduce the risk of developing conditions such as bowel cancer. Secondly, early diagnosis is key, here are some warning signs to look out for…



Blood in the poo

This is a common symptom. Though this is normally due to haemorrhoids, it can be a sign of bowel cancer.

Looser stools or frequent bathroom visits

Most of us have suffered from diarrhoea, or periods of more frequent visits to the toilet. These changes normally settle, but if they don’t for more than a couple of weeks is worth mentioning to your doctor.


This is the sensation of being unable to completely empty the rectum. It can be caused by a build-up of hard impacted poo or by inflammation of the lining of the rectum, but can also be sign of bowel cancer.

Unexplained anaemia

If blood tests show that you have unexplained anaemia (low haemoglobin or blood count) with low iron levels it is important to see a gastroenterologist.

Unexplained weight loss

All cancers can cause this. If you have been losing weight without really trying, it is important to speak to your GP or a specialist.

An abdominal mass

Occasionally large cancers can be felt as a lump within the tummy.

Symptoms of bowel obstruction

Advanced bowel cancer can cause a blockage in the colon, leading to tummy pain and swelling, vomiting and constipation. If you experience any of these symptoms, don’t be embarrassed. Seek medical advice.

Dr Neil Galletly

By Dr Neil Galletly

Dr Neil Galletly is a gastroenterologist serving both as consultant and lead clinician in several top London hospitals. He specialises in endoscopy, GI cancer, reflux and bowel irregularities.

After graduating from Cambridge and London, he undertook further training in gastroenterology and hepatology before starting an extensive career in the field of therapeutic gastroenterology and other related pathologies.

He is a member of both the British and American societies of gastroenterology, has taught on university programmes, has published peer-reviewed papers in research journals, and has also been awarded a number of prizes and awards for his work.

We use cookies on this site to enhance your user experience. Click ‘Enter’ to continue browsing. Enter Cookies policy