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What does non-red blood look like?

Posts: 259
Joined: Nov 2004

Okay, I understand from the replies to Gabor that no matter what, when we see blood in our stools we should get it checked out, but that if the blood is bright red there are some probable benign causes.

My question is, what does blood in the stools look like if it's not red? My doc says it's black and tarry, but I'm on chemo and am taking so much iron in supplements that my stools are often very, very dark.

Sorry to be so gross and graphic, but if we semi-colons can't get down and dirty with each other, where can we go?

Posts: 120
Joined: May 2004

Hi Rejoyous,, Graphic hell our Fannies are the subject, I too am on chemo & have alot of time in the bath room. I happen to have ups & downs with Bowels s maybe it is the iron? I have to go so often & diarreha my butt is sore & hemmroid problems so that seems to be my issues. ask dr. I suppose maybe now so much iron, infact I am now even taking iron & i think I should , Good Luck

spongebob's picture
Posts: 2598
Joined: Apr 2003

rejoyous -

Therein lies the problem...

So often we cannot see blood that comes from something other than a hemmerhoid because it ISN'T red - it's black and tarry. You should look for changes in the color and/or consistency of the stool or what appears to be "liquid" being passed along with it (I know, those of us who have had a colectemy of some degree seldom seem to see a solid stool, right?).

Biggest things to look for are:

1. Change in color (tough in your case if you're on iron supplements - it's black all the time, right?)

2. Change in consistency (again - ours are pretty much always a mess, right?)

3. Change in smell - I know, UGH, we chase everyone out of the house no matter what, right? Pass the candles, the Glade Air Freshner, and turn on the fan!

It's really hard to detect blood in your stool after having surgery. It's hard to detect beforehand (that's why so many of us allow the situation to get bad - because we don't catch the symptom). The blood, unless it's coming from somewhere near the anus, is usually digested to some point and not readily recognizable.

The best test to see if there is actually blood in your stool is a fecal blood occult test. Ask you doctor for some cards. They are about 2" x 2". When you go, you scrape a sample (I won't go into it all, jus follow the instructions on the card) and the doc can do a quick reagent test on the card right there in the office to verify if blood is present. If you notice changes as I described above (consistency, smell, frequency, etc.) I would recommend doing the test to make sure there isn't any blood present - it sure beats spending 20 minutes staring into the toilet bowl!

Hope this helps

- SB (as in "staring at bowl")

Posts: 835
Joined: Apr 2004

Great answer from SB aove. To simply add if the blood is bright red like normal blood it si probabaly coming from around teh anus (the exit point) and is usuallyfrom a benign cause eg a fissure or haemorrhoids. It can still be from a serious cause though and should be checked.
If from a little hihger it is usually darker red like clotted blood. If from the stomach or high small colon it is fully digested and turns black- what the doctors call malaena. It is different from normal dark stools as it is often tar like in consistncy and very offensive in smell.

But Sb is right and the best test is the faecal occult blood aas alot of blood loss in stools is microscopic and can't be seen.

Always better safe than sorry,

Posts: 259
Joined: Nov 2004

Wow, Sponge Bob and all the rest, you're the greatest! Thanks.

By the way, in my case I didn't ignore the symptoms. I had been seeing a GI for the past 10 years for various GI distress and he didn't take my symptoms seriously enough. He said I had irritable bowel, even when I was in his office complaining last year that things seemed to be changing and I was having a lot more discomfort. Finally when I turned 50 he suggested a routine colonoscopy. You should have seen his face when he had to tell me the bad news. He had missed both my stage 3 tumor and my Crohn's disease.

Kanort's picture
Posts: 1275
Joined: Jan 2004


Well, I certainly can't top the above responses, but I can add that I know your frustration about your symptoms being dismissed as IBS. The same thing happened with me. I would complain every year at my annual check up that I was bloated, constipated, and had thin stools. My doctor was very shocked at my stage 3 diagnosis as well. I just hope he learned from it and will no listen to someone else's complaints with a little more concern.

Take care,


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