Blood in your poop: what it looks like & what it could mean
Poop: a window to your health and a
valuable warning system of a problem
inside your body. Keeping an eye on your
poop is an important step in being aware
of colorectal cancer and identifying
early signs of the disease.
Hi! I’m Dr. Shady Ashamalla, a surgeon who specializes in colorectal cancer.
Because it involves bums and poop people often
shy away from talking about colorectal cancer.
I want to change that because the
more we talk the more we know and the
better we can find colorectal cancers
The colon takes in water and nutrients from the food we eat
passes the waste to the rectum and voila — poop.
Colorectal cancer is when cancer
cells begin to grow out of control in
the colon or rectum, first forming a
cluster of cells called a polyp, and
eventually becoming a cancer as the
cells burrow deeper and deeper into the
wall of the colon. These polyps can cause
changes in the frequency or shape of
And because the polyps and eventual
cancers are growing on the inner lining
of the bowel, they can also bleed into
the bowel and that blood then becomes
incorporated with the stool as it passes through.
So what does that blood in your
poop actually look like?
Blood in your poop can be caused by a variety of things but let’s imagine what the blood
in your poop might look like if it’s
coming from a colorectal cancer.
First, let’s say the cancer is on the right
side of the colon. That’s the beginning
of this very long organ and the furthest
from the exit, your anus.
You probably wouldn’t be able to see any blood coming
from that cancer by the time it reaches
the toilet. If there’s lots of blood
coming from a cancer on the right side
of the colon though, it might not look
red when it reaches the toilet because
it’s older blood. Instead, it might look
more like black tar mixed with the poop.
If the cancer is further down the colon
or in the rectum the blood will be
fresher, smeared along the stool as it
hits the toilet or even mixed with the
stool and still red. Finally, if the
cancer is in the rectum, you might see
red blood going directly into the toilet
before or after the poop rather than
mixed in with the stool.
If you have a visual impairment or
otherwise unable to visually check your
poop, talk to your doctor about other
important screening tests. Blood in your
stool is a warning sign for cancer but
it’s not always visible. That’s why it’s
so important for people to take part in
colorectal cancer screening programs
starting at the age of 50 or even sooner
if you have a family history of the
disease. Visible blood in your stool,
hidden blood spotted through a screening
test, or changes in your bowel habits can
be caused by other health issues. But
remember, regardless of the cause it’s
important to get it checked out. So
before you flush, remember to always
take a good look at your poop. It could
save your life.