We should all be aware of the various signs and symptoms of bowel cancer. It is currently the third most common form of cancer worldwide, and it accounts for around 10% of all cancer deaths. Although many colorectal malignancies do not actually produce obvious symptoms until the disease is advanced, the following telltale warning signs of bowel cancer should prompt you to seek medical evaluation as soon as possible. An early diagnosis could end up saving your life.

1) Although everything from stress to a mild case of irritable bowel syndrome can cause noticeable changes in your bowel movements, some of these changes can be caused by bowel cancer. You should be particularly concerned if you experience several episodes of diarrhea, suffer from constipation that does not respond to treatment, feel intense pain when having a bowel movement, or have the sense that it is impossible to fully empty your bowels.

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2) The majority of people who experience rectal bleeding do not have bowel cancer. Hemorrhoids are far more common, an (although they cause discomfort) they do not pose a risk to your life. However, it is a mistake to assume that you have hemorrhoids without being examined by a doctor. If you see blood in the toilet or on the toilet paper, make an appointment to rule out bowel cancer as soon as possible.

3) In addition to checking for blood in the toilet bowl and on the toilet paper, you should regularly look at your bowel movements to see if there is any blood in your stools. Bowel cancer will sometimes cause patches of dark blood to appear on the surface of your stools; while other times the blood will be evenly dispersed throughout.

4) Mucus can appear anytime that bowel irritation is present, and bowel cancer is one cause of irritation. Unless you have already been diagnosed with a condition such as IBS or ulcerative colitis, mucus should prompt you to discuss the possibility of bowel cancer with your doctor.

5) Bowel cancer can cause constant or intermittent bowel pain, ranging from mild discomfort to an acute ache. If you are confused about the source of your abdominal pain, ask your doctor whether you should be worried about any form of bowel cancer. Feeling bloated is also a symptom of colorectal cancers, so it is particularly important to mention any bloating as well.