What are the early signs of bowel cancer?

early signs of bowel cancer

Bowel cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer death in New Zealand. It is the medical term for cancer that starts in the large bowel consisting of the colon and rectum. It is also known as colon, rectal, or colorectal cancer.

Here are risk factors that may affect the development of bowel cancer on an individual:

  • Genetics. Cancer can be hereditary.

  • Family history. Colon or rectal cancer may run in the family.

  • Age. It is more common in the elderly.

  • Diet. High intake of red meat and fats increases the risk.

  • Smoking. Heavy smokers are more at risk.

  • Weight. It is more common in people who are obese.

  • Alcohol. Heavy drinkers are more at risk.

  • Digestive disorders. People with inflammatory bowel disease are at risk.

Signs of bowel cancer

Bowel cancer symptoms include the following:

  1. Constant changes in the bowel movements. Diarrhea and constipation may alternate for several days.

  2. There is blood in the stool.

  3. There is rectal bleeding.

  4. The stools are as narrow or as thin as pencils.

  5. The feeling that the bowel does not empty completely.

  6. Sudden weight loss.

  7. Pain in the abdomen.

  8. A persistent bloated feeling.

  9. Constant fatigue.

If you notice these warning signs, then immediately go to the doctor for proper diagnosis. Detection of cancer in its early stages means that it is easier to cure and the chance of survival is still high.

Bowel cancer stages

Bowel cancer can be classified using the TNM Classification of Malignant Tumours. This is used to describe cancers that originate from a single tumour. It shows the extent or area to which cancer has spread in the body.

  • T describes the size of the tumour

  • N shows that cancer has reached the lymph nodes

  • M means that cancer has already metastasized into other parts of the body

It can also be classified numerically, from Stage 0 to Stage 4.

Stage 0 is the earliest stage which means that the cancer is still contained within the lining. Stage 4 indicates that cancer has spread to other body parts.



Local excision - removal of a small lining on the colon or rectum where the cancer cells are located

Colectomy - removal of the entire colon

Local resection - removal of rectal cancer cells that are in the early stages

Total mesenteric excision - removal of a larger area of the rectum, including the mesentery in the abdomen

Anterior resection - removal of cancer cells located in the upper or middle part of the rectum

Abdominoperineal resection - removal of cancer cells located at the lowest part of the rectum


The use of radiation to kill cancer cells. It helps control the symptoms, especially if the cancer is already non-curable.


The use of medication to kill cancer cells. The downside is that it can also kill healthy cells.

Bowel cancer survival rates are high if it is detected and treated early. For convenience, you may purchase your medicines online from Auckland's Balmoral Pharmacy and have it delivered to your home.  

Balmoral Pharmacy ndl

Balmoral Day & Night Pharmacy. Your local, urgent and open late pharmacy. Order online for local same day or overnight delivery!