Colon cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, is cancer that develops in the large intestine, especially the colon. The colon is located in the very last part of the digestive tract and plays an important role in removing waste products from the body. Colon cancer does not always cause symptoms in the early stages, therefore it is crucial to be aware of the possible symptoms and to be screened by colonoscopy as soon as one has reached a certain age. Older adults are most susceptible to colon cancer, which starts with a lump of cells forming inside the colon. These lumps of cells, called polyps, start non-cancerous but can become cancerous over time. Keep reading to learn some of the most common warning signs of colon cancer, so you can stay informed about your health.
Warning Signs of Colon Cancer
10. Persistent abdominal pain or discomfort
Abdominal pain and discomfort such as cramps, bloating and gas pains that are getting worse can be a sign of bowel cancer. Although there may be a benign cause for these sensations, you should make an appointment with your doctor if the pain and discomfort you are experiencing persist. Since the colon is part of the digestive system, cancer in this area can lead to changes in the way your abdomen feels daily.
9. Sudden weight loss
Unintentional weight loss of ten pounds or more within six months or less can be an early warning sign for many different types of cancer, including colorectal cancer. Weight loss occurs in combination with cancer because the presence of cancer cells can release substances into the body that change the way food is absorbed. Weight loss can also result from a blockage in the colon when the tumor has grown large enough, which will affect bowel movements and weight.
8. Changes in bowel movements
If you begin to experience inexplicable changes in your bowel movements and habits, such as diarrhea or constipation that lasts longer than normal, this may be an early warning sign for bowel cancer. The colon is the last part of the digestive system and plays an important role in processing waste and absorbing fluid as the body prepares for elimination. Cancer of the colon or rectum can cause a blockage, making it more difficult for the organ to do its job properly and causing changes in the elimination of waste.
Constipation can be a cause or a consequence of colon cancer. Chronic constipation is one of the leading causes of intestinal polyps, and these digital protrusions into the intestinal lumen might turn into cancer after a while. At the same time, late-stage cancer can cause constipation as well, especially when associated with bowel obstruction.
6. Blood in Stool
Colon and rectal cancers do not always show symptoms, but one of the most common warning signs is the presence of blood in the stool. It is important to note that the presence of blood in the stool does not automatically mean that you have bowel cancer. Hemorrhoids and anal fissures are much more common causes of the presence of blood in the stool, but the issue should still be referred to your doctor so the cause can be identified and addressed.
Like abdominal pain, nausea is a common sign in gastrointestinal problems that might be quite difficult to differentiate. In colon cancer and many other types of cancer, inflammation is a key factor for cancer growth and the spread of cancer cells throughout the body. Thus, cancer cells start manufacturing cytokines and inflammatory mediators that contribute to nausea because they change the stools’ normal movement throughout the gastrointestinal tract.
The presence of cancer cells in the body uses much of the body’s energy, which leads to fatigue. Although fatigue can indicate a large number of problems in the body, ranging from sleep deprivation to nutritional deficiencies, it can also indicate something as serious as bowel cancer. You should always pay attention to your body, and if you notice any significant changes in your energy level, bring it up with your doctor.
In severe nausea, patients may also experience vomiting. This symptom might be as strict as to prevent patients from eating much and contributing to a wasting syndrome; we will address further, called cachexia. Continuous vomiting should be evaluated, especially when it starts suddenly, is maintained for a few days, and is associated with abdominal pain. Colon cancer patients with vomiting problems might have an intestinal obstruction, leading to fecal vomiting when the intestinal lumen block is total.
A common symptom in patients with colon cancer is recurrent episodes of diarrhea without any explanation. When colon cancer causes severe diarrhea, these patients often have electrolyte imbalances, dehydration, and other complications. This is especially the case in senior patients, which is why it is important to search for the source of diarrhea as quickly as possible.
This symptom is very important, and it is something patients usually report only when asked because they may not even notice. Colon cancer reduces the space in the intestinal lumen, and that’s where stool passes in its way to be eliminated. Space becomes diminished, and the seats become narrow, trying to pass the obstruction. Little chairs are common in other inflammatory conditions that lead to a reduced intestinal lumen. Still, it is a good sign you should report to your doctor if you’re suspecting colon cancer.
See Also: Early Signs & Symptoms of Colon Cancer