Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of colorectal cancer may include:

  • blood in your stools (faeces) or bleeding from your back passage
  • a change to your normal bowel habit that happens for no obvious reason, and lasts for more than three weeks, for example,  diarrhea or constipation
  • abdominal pain or pain in your back passage
  • unexplained weight loss
  • unexplained fatigue / tiredness
  • breathlessness
  • a lower than normal level of red blood cells (anaemia)

If you have any of the above symptoms that have lasted six weeks or more, you need to see your GP as soon as possible. It is important to remember these symptoms can be caused by conditions other than colorectal cancer, but you should always have them checked out.

In some cases, colorectal cancer can cause a sudden blockage (obstruction) in the bowel. Symptoms of a bowel obstruction may include:

  • a feeling of bloating / fullness
  • abdominal pain
  • constipation
  • not able to pass wind
  • vomiting

If you have any of these symptoms you need to see your GP immediately, or present to your nearest Accident and Emergency Department.

Bowel Cancer Screening

Bowel cancer screening aims to detect colorectal cancer at an early stage, in people with no symptoms. This is when treatment is more likely to be effective. Screening can also detect polyps. If polyps are picked up early they can easily be removed reducing the risk of bowel cancer developing.

The Bowel Cancer Screening Programme offers screening every two years to all men and women, aged 60 to 74, who are registered with a GP. In order to be invited you must ensure your GP has your correct name and current address on their computer system. People in this age group will automatically be sent an invitation and a screening kit in the post so they can do the test at home, which involves collecting a stool sample. After your first screening test you will be sent another invitation and screening kit every two years for as long as you remain within the screening age group.

For more detailed information on the Bowel Screening Programme, please visit the  Public Health Agency website.

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