Bowel Cancer and Stomach Noises: Signs and What They Mean

01 Apr 2024, by

Dr. Lusine Badalian

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Bowel cancer stomach noises, or borborygmus, are often overlooked as a normal digestive process. However, when these sounds become more frequent or louder, they could indicate bowel cancer. Early detection is key to successful treatment, making it vital to recognize when these sounds could be a cause for concern. This article delves into the symptoms of bowel cancer, including stomach noises, treatment options, and the importance of early detection and lifestyle changes for prevention.

bowel cancer stomach noises

Understanding Bowel Cancer

Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, is a term used to describe cancer that begins in the colon or rectum. These parts of our digestive system play crucial roles in processing food, extracting nutrients, and managing waste. Recognizing the signs of bowel cancer and understanding its implications is vital for timely intervention and treatment.

According to World Health Organization (WHO) statistics, colorectal cancer ranks as the third most common cancer globally, accounting for about 10% of all cancer cases. It also stands as the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide. These statistics underscore the significance of raising awareness about bowel cancer and the critical importance of early detection. Early diagnosis not only enhances the effectiveness of treatment but also significantly improves survival rates, making knowledge and vigilance powerful tools in the fight against this disease.

Bowel cancer can be categorized mainly into two types:

  • colon cancer
  • rectal cancer


Colon cancer originates in the colon, which is the larger part of the large intestine, while rectal cancer starts in the rectum, the last several inches of the large intestine leading to the anus. Despite their similar nature, the distinction between colon and rectal cancers is important for determining the most effective treatment strategies and understanding potential outcomes.

Symptoms of Bowel Cancer

Early Warning Signs

In the battle against bowel cancer, recognizing early warning signs can be a lifesaver. Symptoms might be subtle and easily mistaken for less serious health issues, making vigilance essential. One such symptom is unusual stomach noises. While it's normal for the stomach and intestines to produce sounds as they process food and gas, changes in these sounds can be a signal. If you notice your stomach is making louder, more frequent gurgles, rumbles, or growls than usual, it might be time to listen more closely to your body. These unusual noises, especially when accompanied by other symptoms, could indicate something more serious than just digestion.

Other early signs of bowel cancer to watch for include:

  • Blood in your stool: Whether bright red or darker in color, this is a significant warning sign.
  • Changes in bowel habits: Experiencing diarrhea, constipation, or a change in the consistency of your stool can be a red flag.
  • Abdominal discomfort: Persistent abdominal pain, gas, or cramping can be early symptoms.

Monitoring these signs and consulting with a healthcare provider can lead to early detection, which is key to effective treatment.

Advanced Symptoms

As bowel cancer progresses, the symptoms become more pronounced and severe. Recognizing these advanced symptoms is crucial for seeking timely medical advice:

  • Increased severity of pain in the abdomen or rectum, indicating possible growth or spread of the tumor.
  • Significant weight loss without a clear reason is a common sign of many cancers, including bowel cancer.
  • Persistent fatigue or weakness, which may result from the body's effort to fight the cancer.
  • Obstruction of the bowel: This can lead to severe constipation, abdominal pain, and bloating.

If you experience any of these advanced symptoms, it's imperative to seek immediate medical consultation. Early action can make a significant difference in treatment efficacy and overall prognosis. For those noticing initial signs or seeking more information on symptoms related to bowel health, exploring resources like the Symptom Checker can be a helpful first step. However, it's essential to remember that online tools are not substitutes for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult a healthcare professional to make informed decisions about your health.

Stomach Noises and Bowel Cancer

Stomach noises, or "borborygmus," are common sounds associated with the movement of food, liquids, and gas through the digestive system. While often considered normal, certain changes in these sounds can be indicative of underlying conditions, such as bowel cancer.

Normalcy in Digestive Sounds

  • Typically, these sounds are a normal part of digestion.
  • Occur as the gastrointestinal tract pushes food through the stomach and intestines.

When to Be Concerned

  • Increased volume or frequency of stomach noises, especially if accompanied by other symptoms like changes in bowel habits, blood in stool, or abdominal pain.
  • Persistent changes in digestive sounds, differing from the occasional gurgling or rumbling that everyone experiences.

Other Causes of Stomach Noises

While stomach noises can be a symptom of bowel cancer, it's essential to recognize that various other conditions can also cause these sounds. These include:

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): A common disorder affecting the large intestine, causing cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation.
  • Food Intolerances: Difficulty digesting certain types of foods can lead to excessive gas, bloating, and stomach noises.
  • Gastrointestinal Infections: Viruses, bacteria, or parasites can infect the GI tract, leading to changes in digestion and associated noises.

Each of these conditions presents with symptoms that may overlap with those of bowel cancer but are distinct enough to warrant a different approach to diagnosis and treatment. Recognizing the differences in symptoms can help in identifying the underlying cause of stomach noises and guide appropriate medical advice.

Diagnosis and Screening

The diagnosis of bowel cancer typically begins with a thorough medical history and physical examination, including a digital rectal examination (DRE). This initial step allows healthcare professionals to check for abnormalities in the lower rectum. For a more detailed investigation, procedures such as a colonoscopy or imaging tests like computed tomography (CT) colonography may be recommended.

  • Colonoscopy is a key diagnostic tool where a long, flexible tube equipped with a camera is used to examine the entire colon and rectum. It can detect polyps, cancer, and other diseases of the colon.
  • CT Colonography, also known as virtual colonoscopy, uses CT imaging to produce pictures of the colon and rectum. It's less invasive than traditional colonoscopy and doesn't require sedation.

Screening plays a pivotal role in early detection, significantly impacting treatment outcomes. Current guidelines suggest that individuals at average risk of bowel cancer start regular screening at age 45 to 50. Screening methods, such as fecal immunochemical tests (FIT) or colonoscopy, can detect bowel cancer early, even before symptoms arise.

Treatment Options

The treatment of bowel cancer varies depending on the stage of the disease, its location within the colon or rectum, and the overall health of the patient. Treatment modalities typically include:

  • Surgery: The primary treatment for localized bowel cancer. For colon cancer, this might involve removing the affected sections of the colon. In rectal cancer, the affected part of the rectum is removed. Surgery also plays a role in more advanced stages to relieve symptoms.
  • Chemotherapy: Often used before surgery in rectal cancer to shrink tumors and after surgery in colon cancer to eliminate any remaining cancer cells.
  • Radiation Therapy: Generally used for rectal cancer, either before surgery to shrink tumors or after to target residual cancer cells.


Emerging treatments are expanding options for bowel cancer patients:

  • Targeted Therapy: Focuses on specific molecules and signaling pathways to control cancer growth.
  • Immunotherapy: Utilizes the body's immune system to fight cancer cells, offering new hope for patients with certain types of bowel cancer.

A personalized treatment plan is crucial, taking into account the type of bowel cancer, its genetic makeup, and the patient's preferences and overall health.

Prevention and Early Detection

Preventing bowel cancer and detecting it early are pivotal. Lifestyle changes and dietary modifications can play a significant role in reducing risk:

  • Dietary Recommendations: High-fiber foods, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; limiting red meat and processed foods.
  • Lifestyle Changes: Regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding tobacco, and moderating alcohol consumption.

Regular screening is the most effective strategy for early detection, significantly improving treatment outcomes. Being aware of your body and recognizing early symptoms like changes in bowel habits, blood in stool, or unexplained stomach noises are vital.

When to See a Doctor

It's essential to consult a healthcare professional if you experience:

  • Persistent changes in bowel habits.
  • Blood in your stool or unusual stomach noises, especially if accompanied by weight loss or fatigue.
  • Any new or unusual symptoms that don't go away.

Advocating for your health is critical. Don't hesitate to seek a second opinion if you feel it's necessary. Understanding your body and recognizing when something isn't right can make a significant difference in the early detection and treatment of bowel cancer.

Living with Bowel Cancer

Living with bowel cancer presents many challenges, but support is available to help patients and their families navigate this difficult journey:

  • Patient Stories: Sharing experiences can provide comfort, hope, and connection for those going through similar challenges.
  • Support Networks: Support groups, counseling services, and online forums offer emotional support and practical advice for patients and caregivers.

For caregivers, understanding the importance of self-care is crucial. Caregivers are encouraged to seek support for themselves to manage the stress and emotional toll of caring for a loved one with cancer.

Resources are available to help patients and caregivers cope with the diagnosis and treatment of bowel cancer, emphasizing the importance of a strong support network and the power of shared experiences in overcoming the challenges of this disease.

Additional Resources

For those seeking further information, support, or guidance on bowel cancer, numerous resources are available. Here are some links to reputable cancer support groups, screening programs, and educational resources:

  • Cancer Research UK: Offers comprehensive information on cancer types, treatments, and research updates.
  • American Cancer Society: Provides detailed guides on cancer prevention, treatment, and support networks.
  • World Cancer Research Fund International: Shares insights on cancer prevention through lifestyle changes and diet.
  • National Cancer Institute: Features a wealth of information on cancer research, treatment options, and clinical trials.

Exploring these resources can offer valuable support, up-to-date research, and practical advice for patients, caregivers, and anyone interested in bowel cancer.


Bowel cancer, marked by its complex nature and varied symptoms, requires prompt attention and action. Here are key takeaways:

  • Early detection and regular screening save lives.
  • Awareness of symptoms, including unusual stomach noises, is crucial.
  • Personalized treatment plans offer the best outcomes.
  • Lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of bowel cancer.
  • Support networks provide essential emotional and practical assistance.

Empowering yourself with knowledge and resources is the first step toward prevention, early detection, and effective management of bowel cancer.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the main cause of bowel cancer?

The exact cause of bowel cancer isn't known, but factors like age, diet, lifestyle, and genetics play significant roles.

How can I reduce my risk of developing bowel cancer?

Maintaining a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fibers, regular exercise, limiting alcohol intake, and avoiding smoking can significantly reduce your risk.

Are there any early warning signs of bowel cancer I should watch for?

Yes, early signs include changes in bowel habits, blood in your stool, abdominal discomfort, and unexplained weight loss.

Is bowel cancer treatable if detected early?

Yes, bowel cancer is highly treatable and often curable when detected early, highlighting the importance of regular screening and early diagnosis.

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