Bowel cancer is one of the most common types of cancers to be diagnosed in the UK. But most people have their bowel cancer diagnosed much later, because symptoms don’t usually appear in its early stages. However, you might notice one or two changes that could be an early warning sign to see a doctor.
Bowel cancer is an all-encompassing term that’s used to define any cancer that’s started in the large bowel.
You might find that some people refer to bowel cancer as either colon or rectal cancer.
Either way, it’s one of the most common types of cancer to be diagnosed, with the risk of bowel cancer increasing as you get older.
One of the earliest warning signs of bowel cancer is noticing a change to the appearance of your stools.
Charity Guts UK said: “The development of a bowel cancer from a polyp may take between five and 10 years, and early on there may be no symptoms at all.
“The most common symptoms are bleeding from the bowel, a change in bowel habit, such as unusual episodes of diarrhoea or constipation and an increase in the amount of mucus in the stool.
“A bowel cancer can enlarge causing partial or complete blockage of the bowel leading to abdominal pain, constipation and bloating.
“Sometimes tiny amounts of bleeding may go unnoticed but result in the development of anaemia, which may cause tiredness and a decreased ability to work and exercise. Unexplained weight loss is also a symptom.”
But just because you start to notice mucus in your stools, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have bowel cancer.
It could be caused by a gastrointestinal problem, like irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis.
An intestinal infection, parasitic infection, or even cystic fibrosis could all cause excessive mucus in stools.
Speak to a doctor if you’re worried about the amount of mucus in your stools.