Tenesmus is a lesser-known warning symptom of bowel cancer what is it?

Bowel cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the large bowel.

The disease may also be referred to as colon or rectal cancer.

Bowel cancer is one of the most common types of cancer diagnosed in the UK.

Most people diagnosed with it are over the age of 60.

According to Cancer Research UK, 44% of bowel cancer cases in the UK are in women, and 56% are in males.

Bowel cancer incidence is strongly related to age, with the highest incidence rates being in older people.

Any unusual changes to your toilet habits should warrant a chat with your GP.

This may include spotting blood in your stools, experiencing more frequent and looser stools or pain in your abdomen.

Tenesmus is another early indicator of bowel cancer.

What is tenesmus?

Tenesmus is the feeling that you need to poo, even though your bowels are already empty.

The condition may involve straining and discomfort during bowel movements.

Despite this pain and straining, there will often be little to no poo produced.

Tenesmus can be painful, especially if there is cramping or other digestive symptoms alongside it.

The symptoms can come and go, or they may persist long term.

Tenesmus often refers to cramping rectal pain and gives a person the feeling that they need to go to the toilet, even if they’ve already been.

Symptoms of tenesmus
Frequently feeling like you need to poo
Urgency to evacuate your bowels
Straining and discomfort during bowel movements
Passing only a small amount of poo
Feeling as if you can’t completely empty your bowels.

Other possible causes for tenesmus include:

Crohn’s disease
Ulcerative colitis
Constipation
Proctitis (meaning an infection or an inflammatory bowel disease)
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Rectal prolapse
Sexually transmitted infection (STI) of the rectum
Viral, bacterial, or parasitic infections of the colon
Anorectal motility disorders
Certain types of abdominal surgery
Rectal abscesses.
A doctor may recommend a specialist who will be able to diagnose the cause of your tenesmus.

Your medical history, family history and any other accompanying symptoms will be discussed.

Tests may also be recommended to further analyse any underlying reasons for your bowel difficulties.

A physical exam also allows for a proper diagnosis of tenesmus.

It helps your doctor see if there’s any inflammation or abnormalities around the rectum.