Bowel cancer symptoms: Hematochezia is a warning sign of the deadly disease – what is it?

Bowel cancer is a general term for any cancer which develops in the large bowel. The disease is sometimes known as colorectal or colon cancer. The early symptoms of the disease can be extremely subtle which makes them easily missed or even dismissed. This could cause a detrimental effect on survival however, which is why knowing the early signs is so important. Hematochezia refers to rectal bleeding and is a warning sign which should not be ignored.


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MedicineNet explained: “Hematochezia is bright red blood in the stool, usually from the lower gastrointestinal tract, the colon or rectum or from haemorrhoids.”

Hematochezia is caused by bleeding in the colon which is close to the anus.

The blood only travels a short distance, so it is still fresh by the time it leaves the anus and a person may notice it mixed in with the stool, though occasionally it comes out separate.

Hematochezia tends to cause more minor bleeding and symptoms which accompany hematochezia include diarrhoea, change in bowel habits, abdominal pain, fever and weight loss, which are all warning signs of bowel cancer.

Melena vs hematochezia

Gastrointestinal issues are often major warning signs that all is not right inside the body.

Gastrointestinal bleeding is usually categorised as either melena or hematochezia.

Melena refers to black stools, while hematochezia refers to fresh, red blood in the stools.

This blood might be mixed in with the stool or come out separately.

Hematochezia usually comes from the colon, while melena usually comes from a higher point in the GI tract.

The rectum is the final 15cm of the large intestine where stools accumulate before being expelled from the body via the anal canal.

Rectal bleeding is a very common complaint in the general population and affects up to 15 percent of adults.

Experiencing this condition is unfortunately not commonly reported to doctors which increases the risk of whatever is causing the bleeding to develop more dangerously.


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The cause of hematochezia could be due to polyps which are benign tumours or growths in the large intestine that can predispose to cancer.

The bleeding associated with polyps tends to be mild and intermittent.

Removal of polyps during colonoscopy can also cause later rectal bleeding.

Cancer of the colon, or bowel cancer, typically causes blood too to be mixed with the stool.

Bowel cancer can also cause occult blood loss and be diagnosed following investigation of symptoms of weight loss or anaemia.

Diagnosing the condition

If you suspect you may have hematochezia, a doctor will likely start with a colonoscopy to further investigate.

This involves a small tube with a camera being inserted through the rectum.

The device will give the doctor a view of your lower GI tract, including the colon, so they can pinpoint where the blood is coming from.

During the procedure, they may also take a small tissue sample for additional testing.

Other tests used to diagnose the condition include a barium X-ray, radionuclide scanning or an angiography. 

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