Signs of Bowel Cancer Can Be Easy to Miss: Don't Discount Your Stomach Noises

Anna Garrison - Author

Feb. 7 2024, Published 3:31 p.m. ET

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One of the simplest yet most important pieces of advice regarding monitoring your health can be summed up as listening to your body. Whether you're experiencing mouth pain or red eyes when you wake up, symptoms that seem mild can be early warning signs of larger issues to come.

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When a celebrity like Toby Keith dies of cancer, people begin to wonder about signs they, too, have cancer and how anyone may have missed them. Does someone with bowel cancer experience strange stomach noises? Here's what you should know about bowel cancer signs and symptoms, explained.

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Are stomach noises a sign of bowel cancer?

Before you panic, not all stomach noises may be a sign of bowel cancer. However, if you are experiencing stomach distress, it's best to consult your doctor first and foremost.

That said, the University of Hawai'i Cancer Center wrote an article in March 2023 that a potential symptom of bowel cancer (also known as colon cancer) can be "frequent stomach growling."

According to the Centre for Gastrointestinal Health, a little stomach rumbling is normal, indicating "your intestinal muscles pushing food through its hollow tubes." However, there are three types of stomach noises to keep on the lookout for, and they can mean very different things to your health.

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First, normal bowel sounds will sound like gurgling or clicking. According to Mount Sinai, most bowel sounds you experience are normal and just mean your gastrointestinal tract is working regularly. If you're concerned, you can always consult a doctor, who will listen to your bowels with a stethoscope.

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You can have hypoactive bowel sounds, meaning fewer or no bowel sounds. The Centre for Gastrointestinal Health says having fewer bowel sounds is common if you are experiencing constipation, Ischemic bowel disease, bowel obstruction, or have completed bowel surgery.

If you do not hear any sounds from your stomach 48 hours after surgery or for an extended period, you should consult with a physician.

Finally, there are also hyperactive bowel sounds, which may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain, which can indicate severe symptoms. These symptoms may represent gastrointestinal bleeding, bowel obstruction, infectious enteritis (a bacterial infection), or malabsorption.

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While bowel cancer and stomach cancer are different, NBC News noted that signs of stomach cancer can also fly under the radar and manifest as "heartburn, acid reflux, anemia, nausea, ulcers, pain after eating, sudden weight loss or feeling full after eating small amounts."

NBC News consulted Dr. Fabian Johnston, who said that people often dismiss or downplay symptoms that could lead to cancer as harmless.

"A lot of these things are relatively innocuous. But of course with a cancer, that’s how it gets you," Dr. Johnson told the outlet.

So, in short, if you're experiencing seemingly harmless symptoms that are unusual for you, it's best to get to a doctor and explain the situation.

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