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Blood in stools

Blood in your stool (poo) can be worrying and should never be ignored as it could be an indication of bowel cancer. However, blood in stools can also indicate a number of other conditions which may also need medical attention.

Blood in your stool is either usually found when wiping after a bowel movement or if you have had a faecal occult blood test.

Types of bleeding

The colour of the blood found can be an indicator of the condition you may be suffering from. Generally, lighter, bright red blood is an indicator of problems near the anus whereas black, tarry blood indicates problems in the upper digestive system. In some instances your faeces (poo) may turn black or plum coloured, known as melaena.

What causes blood in stools?

Finding blood in your stool doesn’t immediately mean you have bowel cancer but should always be investigated. It can be caused by a number of conditions including:

  • Haemorrhoids (Piles) – Swollen blood vessels in and around the rectum and anus which may bleed bright red blood when you have a bowel movement.
  • Anal fissure – A small tear or ulcer in the lining of the anal canal which, when you have a bowel movement can produce bright red blood.
  • Anal fistula – A small channel that can develop between the end of the bowel and the skin near the anus.
  • Diverticular disease – Small protrusions in the lining of the colon wall can bleed and become infected causing blood in the stool.
  • Angiodysplasia – A condition where blood vessels in the colon become enlarged and fragile and hence may bleed.
  • Colitis – An inflammation of the inner lining of the colon which can cause rectal bleeding.
  • Peptic ulcers – Ulcers are sores that develop in the stomach, duodenum or upper part of the small intestine that can cause bleeding.
  • Crohn’s disease – An inflammation of the lining of the bowel that occurs high up in the gut
  • Gastroenteritis – A severe infection of the stomach and bowel which can cause blood in the stools.
  • Colon cancer – Which starts with small growths called polyps
  • Rectal cancer – A type of bowel cancer.

Blood in stools can also be caused if you are taking an anticoagulant medication to reduce your risk of blood clots such as warfarin or aspirin.

Early detection saves lives

There are many causes of blood in your stool but it is very important that you seek medical advice to get a definite diagnosis so that if it is cancer, you can be treated quickly and improve your outcome.

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