View Full Version : What does change in bowel habits really mean?

21-10-07, 12:27
I have always had a senstive bowel and have never ever gone a day without at least 2 bowel motions. My pattern for past 15 years has been as follows

I have 5-7 days of going to toilet 2-3 times in morning with very soft motions then late at night I will pass what look like rabbit droppings, very hard.

I then have a day where I will go to toilet at least 5-6-7 times in the mornng with large amount of soft motions as if my bowel is clearing out.

If i eat too much fibre then this can give me the 5-6 loo trips the next day or if I am nervous this will do it as well.

My long suffering husband says that I have been doing this for as long as he can remember so although my bowel habits change once a week or so this is normal for me.

I got so worried 6 mnths ago that I underwent the following tests

flexible sigmoidoscopy - normal
pelvic and abdominal ultrasound - normal
fecal occult blood test - negative
have had 4 full blood counts - not anaemic
complete stool analysis - normal

Both my GP and hospital Dr have said I have probably always had IBS. The hospital Dr said I could have a colonoscopy as well if I wanted but due to severe spinal damage having any proceedure under anaethetic or sedation is risky as I am not in control of my position.

My GP says as all the above tests were okay I do not need colonoscopy and on my normal days I agree but every time i get one of my 6-7 bowel motions days then I panic and think that I should have the colonospy.

Everyone I know who has been diagnosed with colon cancer has had positive occult blood tests and has also been unexplainably aneamic. I know three people in last few years with colon cancer and they all started with unexplained aneamia there Dr then did fecal occult blood test which were positive and they then had further tests. My flexible sigmoisocopy which goes quite a long way didn't even find any polyps at all and i know nearly all colon cancers start from polyps.

I am so fed up of having unpleasant tests just to put my mind at rest but I also can't bear not to have them either:shrug:

21-10-07, 14:34
Hi Countrygirl, I would say from the amount of tests that you've had that you are definately fine and it is IBS. I am sure if the Dr thought there was the slightest chance of it being anything else he would have insisted that you had more tests done. IBS does have the symptoms you describe.

There are things you can be prescribed to help with IBS. A friend of mine took a very low dose of an anti depressant, I think it was about a tenth of the therapeutic dose. It totally took about all her IBS symptoms but it also made her very tired so she stopped taking it. The positive thing however was that taking the med made her realise she did have IBS as an anti depressant wouldn't have cleared up a serious condition, so it did put her mind at rest.

There was something in the papers a year or two ago about a new tiny little disposable camera that you swallow and it takes pictures of the whole of your intestinal tract, even parts that cameras can't get to apparently. I doubt it's available on the NHS but it would be available privately if you really really wanted to have more reassurance.

22-10-07, 03:29
Colon cancer is more likely to produce episodes of constipation along with all the loose stuff-and so is any other form of bowel obstruction. With all those tests you've had, you must be ok, especially if what happens is normal for you.

24-10-07, 22:42
Thanks for that - does anyone know if you can have colon cancer and still get negative fecal occult blood tests, my dr says he hasn't come accross anyone with colon cancer who has had the three days tests come back all negative thats why they do it ove thre days.

I couldn't believe the other day I was waiting in hospital for MRI scan of spine and man in his 60's sat next to me for CT scan and he was telling me he had terminal bowel cancer!!! and was having CT scan to see how far the cancer had progressed. He said he was rushed to hospital with very bad constipation that had lasted weeks and he had a huge bloated abdomen and it turned out it was colon cancer that had already spread when they operated. I got called in for my scan before I could ask him if he had ever had the fecal occult blood tests. He was such a happy contented man who said he had had a good life and was doing lots of things while he could but didn't expect to live more than 18 months. phew!

25-10-07, 10:18

I can relate to everything you are saying. My story is very similar. I haven't had FOBs, but I've had flexible sigmoidoscopy, blood tests, etc. which have all come back normal. However, I do on occasion notice bleeding in my stoosl (bright red) - but my doctors tell me this is nothing to worry about. (As if!)

I have more or less accepted my IBS diagnosis. Currently I'm going down the route of seeing a dietitian to see if they can get me back to a "normal" bowel habit. So far, I have been on a "low fibre" diet for 4 weeks (made me very consiptated!) and a "high fibre" diet for 4 weeks (didn't make an awful lot of difference). I think I'm flogging a dead horse here but it makes me feel better that I'm doing something about it, if you know what I mean!

My main reason for doubting my diagnosis is that I don't seem to suffer the terrible pain that most IBS sufferers get. It's just the unusual bowel habit (which sounds very similar to yours).

Maybe lots of people have an odd bowel habit like us but because they don't have anxiety they don't worry about it, or even notice it?

It is very hard to accept a diagnosis of IBS because this is just what they call it when they can't find anything else. I am (or have been) very fixated with colon cancer and I took an awful lot of convincing that I probably don't have it. On a good day I don't worry about it now. On a bad day I'm convinced I'm undiagnosed with colon cancer and it must be getting worse. In truth, my symptoms have been going on for a couple of years (maybe longer, but I didn't really take much notice of my bowel symptoms until my health anxiety kicked in). And I'm sure if I had colon cancer my symptoms would be getting much worse by now.

I have a family history of bowel disease (colitits) and bowel polyps; as you say, polyps are usually the first sign and these bleed. So the fact that your sigmoidoscopy is clear and your FOBs were negative should put your mind at rest. From what I've read/heard, colon cancers (and polyps) cause bleeding and excess mucus.

It sounds like your symptoms are "normal" for you and you should try not to worry unless you get any changes to this pattern.

You don't mention how old you are. I know in under 40s they don't generally take bowel symptoms very seriously (I'm 36 and I think I was lucky that my GP understood I NEEDED the reassurance of the tests).

Could you maybe ask for yearly screening - blood tests and stool tests - to help put your mind at rest. And maybe referral to dietitian if you want to attempt a normal bowel habit?

Please pm me anytime if you want to share stories or symptoms. For me it was nice to read a post from someone who sounds so much like me!