Signs and symptoms

The initial signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer include:

  • blood in your stools (faeces) or bleeding from your rectum
  • a change to your normal bowel habits that persists for more than six weeks, such as diarrhoea, constipation or passing stools more frequently than usual
  • abdominal pain
  • unexplained weight loss

As a colorectal cancer progresses, it can sometimes cause bleeding inside the bowel. Eventually, this can lead to your body not having enough red blood cells. This is known as anaemia. Symptoms of anaemia include:

  • fatigue
  • breathlessness

In some cases, a colorectal cancer can cause an obstruction in the bowel. Symptoms of a bowel obstruction include:

  • a feeling of bloating, usually around the belly button
  • abdominal pain
  • constipation
  • vomiting

If you have any of the above symptoms that have lasted six or more weeks, including bleeding from the rectum, you need to see your GP as soon as possible.

Early prevention of colorectal cancer

Bowel Cancer Screening

The Bowel Cancer Screening Programme offers screening every two years to all men and women aged 60 to 74.

People in this age group will automatically be sent an invitation and a screening kit from their GP in the post so they can do the test at home.

In order to be invited men and women must ensure their GP has their correct name and current address on their computer system.

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