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Rectal Bleeding

This information will address small volume rectal bleeding, such as you may notice incidentally on toilet paper or as a streak or two of red blood in the stool or commode after a bowel movement.

If you are passing significant amounts of blood, such that it appears the commode is full of red blood or your stools are coal-black and tarry, this could be serious, and it would be best to seek professional medical assistance immediately.  

Rectal bleeding (even minor bleeding) can be a symptom of colon cancer which can be cured if detected early.  A medical evaluation will usually identify a cause for the bleeding after one or two tests.  If it is an especially elusive source, several tests over time are sometimes necessary.

As mentioned above, small amounts of red blood from the rectum is considered to be minor rectal bleeding.  This may appear on the stool, in the bowel or on the toilet paper used.  

Some causes of minor rectal bleeding are:

  • Hemorrhoids -  Internal (generally painless) or external (can be painful at times)

  • Anal fissures - Tear in the lining of the anus (this almost always causes bowel movements to hurt)

  • Proctitis  -  Inflammation of the rectum

  • Polyps - Bump-like growths in the lining of the colon or rectum

  • Colon, rectal, or anal cancer - If detected early, many types of these cancers respond to and can be cured by treatment, usually involving some type of surgery


In order to find out the cause of your bleeding your provider will need to examine you.  They may look for hemorrhoids, anal fissures, inflammation or other abnormalities by doing a rectal exam.  Either instead of or, possibly, in addition to a rectal exam, your provider may recommend a colonoscopy.  A colonoscopy will allow the provider to look directly at the inside of the colon and rectum.  Most kinds of polyps can be completely removed during this procedure.