Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in America, partly because the symptoms of colon cancer do not appear in most cases until the cancer has grown or spread. If you have any of these symptoms, visit your doctor right away for screening.
What are the Symptoms of Colon Cancer?
Colon or colorectal cancer can cause one or all of these symptoms:
- Feeling as if you need a bowel movement but doing so does not alleviate the feeling
- Changes in bowel habits. This may include narrowing of the stool, diarrhea, or constipation. These symptoms last for more than a few days.
- Rectal bleeding
- Blood in the stool. This may make stool look dark or black.
- Abdominal pain, cramps, or bloating
As the disease spreads, it can begin to affect the entire body. Systemic (whole-body) symptoms of colorectal cancer may include unexplained loss of appetite, unintentional weight loss, vomiting, nausea, anemia, jaundice, fatigue, and weakness.
Colon Cancer Symptoms May Not Be Present
Symptoms of colorectal cancer often do not appear until the disease is past the initial stage. This is one of the main reasons for the high mortality rate. The symptoms usually appear in the advanced stages and increase in severity and quantity.
Why Screening is Important
Colon cancer can occur at any age and symptoms rarely appear when the cancer is easiest to treat. The American Cancer Society recommends regular cancer screening beginning at the age of 50. If you have a family history of colon cancer or risk factors, your physician may recommend screening at a younger age. When the disease is found early, there is a 90% 5-year survival rate, although the survival rate drops dramatically once the disease spreads.
You have probably noticed that most symptoms of colon cancer resemble those caused by other problems like irritable bowel syndrome or even hemorrhoids. While most people with these symptoms do not have colon cancer, never ignore your symptoms. Any of these problems are a sign that it’s time to go to the doctor. If you are concerned about any symptoms on this list, your doctor will likely schedule a colonoscopy.