Bleeding from the back passage (anal or rectal bleeding) is something that you should always see a doctor about, even if you are convinced it is piles or an anal fissure, as the blood can come from anywhere in your gut. The reason you need to be checked is that rectal bleeding or blood in poo can be a symptom of bowel (colon or rectum) cancer. If you are worried about being examined in that area, look at the section on seeing your doctor about an anal problem.
In general, if the bleeding is bright red and you have anal pain, especially when you pass a stool, it is probably a non-serious condition such as an anal fissure or piles – but your doctor needs to make sure.
If the bleeding is dark red, or in clots, or mixed with a lot of slime, or mixed in with the faeces, it could be a more serious condition (such as colitis, diverticular disease or cancer of the rectum or colon) that needs prompt treatment. Other symptoms that might be serious are a decreased frequency and/or hardness of the faeces, or an increased frequency and/or looseness of faeces.
What do you know about bowel cancer?
A survey by BUPA, a private healthcare organization in the UK, showed that people do not know much about bowel cancer. When prompted with a list of eight possible symptoms, only 57% of men and 70% of women in the UK named rectal bleeding as one of the main symptoms of bowel cancer.
Home testing for blood in poo
The UK Government sends home-testing kits for blood in the faeces every 2 years to people aged 60–69 years (aged 50–74 in Scotland). This is part of the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme. The aim is to detect bowel cancer early. So if you receive a kit, use it and return according to the instructions.
Further information is available from Dr Phil Hammond in his Expert guide to bowel cancer. As he says, "Don't assume any (anal) bleeding is haemorrhoids (piles). Always get it checked out." Click on the video below to hear what he has to say.
Written by: Dr Margaret Stearn Edited by: Dr Margaret Stearn Last updated:
Wednesday, June 10th 2015
Useful contacts for Anal (rectal) bleeding
Click to see all the contacts that you may find useful in relation to anal bleeding