What Are the Early Signs of Colon Cancer?

Reviewed on 4/23/2021

Colon Cancer

Colon cancer doesn't appear suddenly. It may start as a polyp or a small ulcer that may not cause symptoms.
Colon cancer doesn’t appear suddenly. It may start as a polyp or a small ulcer that may not cause symptoms.

Colon cancer doesn’t appear suddenly. It may start as a polyp or a small ulcer that may not cause symptoms. Polyps, if left untreated, can lead to colon cancer.

Many of the symptoms of colon cancer are similar to those of

If you have the following symptoms, you should consult a doctor to confirm your condition. Many with these symptoms do not have cancer.

Some of the signs that may indicate colon cancer include

  • A change in bowel habits: It is common to experience changes in bowel habits from time to time. However, some changes require the physician’s evaluation if they persist for a long time. They are:
  • Diarrhea: If you notice diarrhea for more than three days, it is a sign of concern.
  • Constipation: If you have constipation for more than two weeks, you should see your doctor.
  • Blood in the stool: One of the distressing symptoms of colon cancer can be bleeding from the rectum or blood in the stool. The stool might look dark brown or black due to the presence of blood. There could be rectal bleeding or changes in the stool appearance. Blood in the stool can be alarming. Hemorrhoids and fissures can also cause a small amount of blood in the stool. If you notice any blood in the stool, immediately consult your physician. Besides, stool appearance and color can be a good indicator of your overall health.
    • Change in stool appearance: If you notice thin, narrow, or ribbon-like stool, this could indicate changes in the colon.
    • Change in stool color: If you notice blood in the stool or darkened or tarry stools, it could indicate any changes inside the colon.
  • Persistent cramping, abdominal pain, or lower back pain: Stomach discomfort is common in colon cancer and can be the consequence of poor diet, food intolerance, stress, or other factors. Be aware of any persistent discomfort or worsening cramps.
  • Weakness and fatigue: Colon cancer can cause anemia, which can make you feel tired or fatigued all the time.
  • Unexplained weight loss: If you start dropping your size for no apparent reason or your energy level drops extremely, you should contact your physician for evaluation.
  • Anemia: Anemia can be a sign of internal bleeding. It can also cause pale skin apart from fatigue.
  • Feeling bloated or feeling of discomfort or constant urge to defecate: A feeling that your bowel doesn’t empty could indicate changes in your colon, preventing a complete bowel evacuation. As a result, you may feel bloated or have a constant feeling of discomfort.

Symptoms also occur depending on the tumor location, type of tumor, the extent of spread, and complications.

For example, if the tumor starts in the right-hand side of the colon, blockage usually occurs in the later stages. This is because the space on the left side of the colon is large with comparatively thin walls, and the material that passes through this is liquid. The symptoms include feeling weak or tired because of severe loss of blood.

On the contrary, if the tumor starts in the left-hand side of the colon, it may cause significant blockage because the space inside the colon is smaller and the material that passes through it is semi-solid.

The symptoms include

  • Constipation and diarrhea
  • Cramp-like pain in the stomach
  • Stool streaked or mixed with blood

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References
American Cancer Society. Do I Have Colorectal Cancer? Signs, Symptoms and Work-Up. February 8, 2021. https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/signs-and-symptoms-of-colon-cancer.html

Colon Cancer Coalition. Colon Cancer Symptoms. https://coloncancercoalition.org/get-educated/what-you-need-to-know/colon-cancer-symptoms/

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