Caring for the Patient With Cancer at Home

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Blood in urine

Blood in stool

Blood in the stool may be caused by irritation of the bowel during a bowel movement. 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), by a pressure sore or ulcer in the anal area, or by a low platelet count. (See the section called “Blood counts.”)

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.
  • Avoid placing anything in the rectum, including suppositories, enemas, thermometers, etc.
  • Keep stool soft by taking in plenty of fluids and fiber.
  • Use stool softeners if OK with your doctor.
  • 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 doctor 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

Last Medical Review: 11/05/2013
Last Revised: 11/05/2013