‘What’s Up Doc’ is a health column in association with The Crawley Observer, which gives you the opportunity to ask questions regarding general health and wellbeing.
Answers are provided weekly from our specialist consultants at Spire Gatwick Park Hospital, Surrey. If it’s a long-standing illness or simply a worry which you would like to get off your mind then we would like to help.
This question appeared in The Crawley Observer on 17 October 2012, to readers across Surrey and Sussex. The question and answer is below, as it appeared in the newspaper.
“Dear Spire, I am 38 years old and experiencing blood in my stool. I do not have any pain or anything, just a toilet full of bright red blood with large clots that I only noticed after I started wiping. I am very scared and starting to worry about rectal cancer? What do I do? Can this be treated? I hope you can help.” Anonymous, Crawley.
Rectal bleeding (blood in the stools) is very common and is usually not serious. The most common causes are piles (haemorrhoids) or tears in the anal canal (called anal fissures). The blood is usually bright red and seen on the toilet paper after opening the bowels. Both of these conditions are commonly associated with itching, soreness and sometimes acute pain in the anal canal. Treatment is usually straightforward and effective.
However, there are other, sometimes more serious causes of rectal bleeding including bowel cancer. If the blood is darker or if there are no peri-anal symptoms, the bleeding may have come from higher up in the bowel. There is also concern if there has been a change in bowel habit, particularly if the stools are looser or more frequent.
You should not ignore rectal bleeding and should avoid trying to make the diagnosis yourself. You should consult your general practitioner who will probably refer you for a fibre-optic camera test to examine the lower part of the bowel (flexible sigmoidoscopy). This is a simple and reliable way to get a clear diagnosis of the cause of the bleeding. I suggest that you make an appointment to see your doctor today.