Bowel cancer symptoms: A ‘jellylike substance’ in your stools could be a warning sign

Bowel cancer symptoms explained by Doctor Richard Roope

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Blood in poo without the presence of piles (haemorrhoids) is one of the most recognised symptoms of bowel cancer. But it’s also worth noting changes in your bowel habit. Pooing more often, with looser, runnier poos and sometimes tummy pain can be a sign of the disease.

Something else to look out for in your bowel movements is an increased amount of mucus in your stools, which the Mayo Clinic describes as a “jellylike substance”.

It explains: “A small amount of mucus in stool is usually nothing to worry about.

“Stool normally contains a small amount of mucus — a jellylike substance that your intestines make to keep the lining of your colon moist and lubricated.

“But you should talk to your doctor if you notice an increased amount of mucus in stool — particularly if it begins happening regularly or if it’s accompanied by bleeding or a change in bowel habits.”

Larger amounts of mucus in your stools, associated with diarrhoea, may be caused by certain intestinal infections.

Mayo Clinic adds: “Bloody mucus in stool, or mucus accompanied by abdominal pain, can represent more serious conditions — Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and even cancer.”

In general, doctors think “sausage” or “snake-like” poo, that’s smooth and soft is normal.

“Sausage-shaped but lumpy” could be a sign you’re constipated, according to WedMD.

“Soft blobs with clear-cut edges” could be a sign of mild diarrhoea.

And poo with “fluffy pieces with ragged edges” and “mushy” more than three times a day signals diarrhoea.

Constipation is rarely caused by serious bowel conditions.

Not all bowel cancer symptoms are related to bowel movements.

The NHS says abdominal pain, discomfort or bloating always brought only eating – sometimes resulting in a reduction in the amount of food eaten and weight loss – can be a sign.

You should see a GP if you have any of the symptoms of bowel cancer for three weeks or more.

In some cases, bowel cancer can stop digestive waste passing through the bowel.

This is known as a bowel obstruction.

Symptoms of a bowel obstruction can include:

  • intermittent, and occasionally severe, abdominal pain – this is always brought on by eating
  • unintentional weight loss – with persistent abdominal pain
  • constant swelling of the tummy – with abdominal pain
  • being sick – with constant abdominal swelling

A bowel obstruction is considered a medical emergency.

So if you suspect your bowel is obstructed, go to the accident and emergency department of your nearest hospital. 

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