In fairness, the title of this blog post is misleading, but we did so on purpose. We did so, very simply, because there’s never a time that blood in the stool should be ignored. Yet, over and over again, we see patients who have experienced blood in their stool, convinced themselves it is something minor and avoided coming to see their doctor or colorectal surgeon. The problem is, that something minor and very treatable today may progress to something more aggressive over time and can ultimately cause significant quality-of-life issues – even malignancy – and ultimately, fewer treatment options. While the only good option is visiting your doctor, following is an idea of the most common causes of blood in the stool and, ultimately, what should be done to address them.
First, it is important to understand the anatomy of the intestinal gastrointestinal tract in order to understand what blood in the stool actually means.
Bright red blood in the stool is usually a result of a lesion or injury close to the rectum. The blood has not had time to a coagulate or mix with stool and comes out bright red. This is often the result of an anal fissure or hemorrhoid. At this point, you might say that these are minor issues and can be treated with topical or conservative treatments. This is often the case, however, hemorrhoids and other bright red blood producing issues can also be hiding malignancy. Therefore, a full evaluation from a qualified healthcare professional, especially a colorectal surgeon, is the best and first course of action.
Blood in the stool can also manifest in different forms. Stool that is particularly dark/black or tarry can be a sign of bleeding further up in the gastrointestinal tract. This kind of bleeding can come from the stomach, small intestine or further up in the large intestine. Deeper bleeding can be caused by a number of issues including diverticulitis, colitis, ulcers and more. Once again, the possibility of malignancy is there as well. As a result, this kind of bleeding must also be evaluated by a qualified physician or colorectal surgeon.
In conclusion, therefore, it truly is important that any blood in the gastrointestinal system be evaluated by a qualified physician to ensure that there is nothing to be concerned about. In the majority of cases, when the concern is minor and not malignant, conservative treatments can often be sufficient. Most cases that require medical or surgical treatment employ minimally invasive or non-invasive, advanced procedures. However, for the minority of cases that do involve malignancy or a serious bleeding event in the abdomen, visiting a colorectal surgeon at the earliest signs of blood in the stool can avoid major problems that can be debilitating or even fatal.
Please take a moment to contact us to schedule a consultation with our colorectal surgeon, Dr. Alex Crean, if you have any concerns or if you have noticed blood in your stool.