Blood In Stools: Just Haemorrhoids Or Something Worse?
For most people, seeing blood in stools is sure to cause one to be alarmed. A discharge of blood is an evident sign that something is amiss with one’s health, but just what causes this unexpected and frightening event to occur?
For the most part, two conditions include this occurrence in their list of symptoms, namely haemorrhoids (also called piles) and colorectal cancer. Below, we cover the definition, similarities and differences between the two and the steps to treat them.
An overview of haemorrhoids and colorectal cancer
Haemorrhoids, also commonly known as piles, are normal structures comprising of blood vessels found in the anus and lower rectum. When these structures swell, it can result in pain, itching, and bleeding – also known as haermorrhoidal disease. This disease is usually experienced at some point in our lives (nearly three out of four adults contract it) because of either of the following:
- Bouts of diarrhoea
- Straining due to constipation
- Poor toilet habits like sitting on the bowl for 10 minutes or more
The symptoms that a patient experiences usually determines the type and location of haemorrhoids. Fortunately, the piles treatment cost is relatively affordable unless surgery is involved. Other than surgery, plenty of effective options are available, including home treatments and accompanying lifestyle changes.
On the other hand, colorectal cancer is a more serious condition that affects the colon or rectum. Colorectal cancer arises with the formation of small growths called polyps in the large intestines. Despite initially being mostly harmless, some polyps tend to become cancerous over time and can develop into colorectal cancer. If you observe the following symptoms along with blood in your stool, it is recommended to seek aid immediately from a medical professional.
- Change in bowel habits, mainly alternating between diarrhoea and constipation
- Pain and passage of mucus during bowel movement
- Significant loss in weight and appetite
- Signs of ongoing blood loss, such as becoming pale, getting tired and breathless despite minimal exertion
What are the symptoms of the two diseases?
Although rectal bleeding is present in both diseases, the colour of the blood caused by haemorrhoids is typically bright red, while colorectal cancer exhibits a darker hue.
Lump in the anus
If experiencing large haemorrhoids or rectal cancer, one may notice a hard and painful lump at the opening of the anus.
Change in bowel habits
Unlike colorectal cancer, haemorrhoids do not cause a change in bowel habits. In the former, one can experience changes such as the frequency of bowel movements.
Discomfort in the abdomen
Colorectal cancer is known to give rise to persistent pain or discomfort in the form of cramps and bloating.
Unexplained weight loss
Like other cancers, unexplained weight loss is another notable symptom of colorectal cancer.
The feeling of incomplete bowel emptying
Colorectal cancer often mimics the feeling of a full bowel, making one feel like they need to pass stools even though their bowels are empty.
How can colorectal cancer be treated?
Although colon cancer treatment costs have become more affordable now, preventing the disease from progressing should always be prioritised. Colon exams or colonoscopy helps detect cancer in its early stages. Colon cancer can be treated with the following treatment options.
Minimally invasive surgery
Today, minimally invasive or keyhole surgery has become the standard of care for treating colon cancer. This procedure effectively removes the abnormal growth via smaller incisions that result in smaller wounds and a shorter recovery period. For more advanced cases of colon cancer wherein the disease has progressed to other parts of the body, chemotherapy and radiotherapy are better solutions.
Chemotherapy is a treatment that involves medicinal drugs that eliminate fast-growing cancer cells. In terms of treating colon cancer, chemotherapy can be administered in three ways: neoadjuvant chemotherapy (given before surgery), adjuvant chemotherapy (given after surgery) and palliative chemotherapy (given for more advanced disease).
Radiotherapy involves the usage of high energy electron beams and X-rays directed towards specific spots within the body to kill off the cancer cells.
Discovering blood after passing stools is a possible sign that your gut health has been compromised in some way. Whether it is caused by haemorrhoids or something more concerning like colorectal cancer, the fact remains that immediate treatment is necessary to relieve the symptoms and cure the affliction.
While this bleeding may most likely be due to haemorrhoids, it is important not to discount the fact that colorectal cancer can happen to anyone. Regular colonoscopies are recommended to everyone who passes the age of 50 or has a family history of the disease.