Blood in Stool
Blood in the stool (poop) may be caused by irritation when moving the bowels. It can also be caused by straining very hard, by an ulcer or a tumor in the bowel, by hemorrhoids (enlarged blood vessels in or around the anus), or by a low platelet count. (See the section called “Bleeding or low platelet count.”)
What to look for
- Blood on toilet tissue
- Blood on underwear, sheets, or underpads
- Streaks of blood in stool
- Bright red blood from rectum
- Dark red or black bowel movements (But remember that eating beets can cause red stools, and iron tablets or bismuth medicines such as Pepto-Bismol® and Kaopectate® can cause black stools for 2 to 3 days. This is normal.)
What the patient can do
- Check how much blood is being passed.
- Don’t put anything in your rectum, including suppositories, enemas, thermometers, etc.
- Keep stool soft by taking in plenty of fluids and fiber.
- Use stool softeners if OK with your cancer team.
- Wash anal area very carefully with warm, soapy water, rinse well, and pat dry.
- Take a sitz bath (sitting in warm water), which may be helpful for hemorrhoids.
What caregivers can do
- Help the patient watch for bleeding.
- Offer extra fluids, fruits, and vegetables to keep the patient’s stool soft.
Call the cancer team if the patient:
- Has blood on toilet tissue 2 or more times
- Has blood streaks in stool
- Has bright red blood coming from rectum
- Has dark red or black stools
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Last Medical Review: June 8, 2015 Last Revised: June 8, 2015