What is Chronic Diarrhea?
You are probably familiar with diarrhea. Chances are, you have experienced it at least once. However, while we understand that diarrhea is frequent, loose, and watery bowel movement, we need to clarify what it means when we add the word “chronic.”
Essentially, chronic means “long-term,” denoting that it has been happening for quite some time now. According to the American College of Gastroenterology, chronic diarrhea occurs when a person experiences frequent, runny stool for longer than 4 weeks.
Many doctors say that chronic diarrhea should be a cause of concern not only because of the complications it may bring (such as dehydration), but also because it could be a sign of a serious problem like cancer.
Chronic Diarrhea as a Sign of Cancer
At this point, you might be wondering: how can something as simple as loose, watery stool develop from a serious condition like cancer?
For starters, runny stool may happen due to the presence of a tumor in areas near the organs responsible for bowel movement. One example is rectal cancer. When a person has a tumor in their rectum, it may change the consistency, frequency, and shape of the stool. This results in loose bowel movement.
There are also instances when poor absorption of food causes diarrhea. Think about pancreatic cancer. Our pancreas is responsible for releasing enzymes that help break down fatty food. The growth of a tumor in the pancreas may block the pancreatic ducts, causing the insufficiency of enzymes in the intestine. With limited enzymes to break down fats, the food will not be absorbed well and diarrhea may occur.
Finally, cancers in the organs responsible for bowel movement may also cause diarrhea.
What Types of Cancer Cause Diarrhea?
Now that we have established that chronic diarrhea can be a sign of cancer, you must be wondering: what cancers cause diarrhea? Here’s a brief list of common cancers that present with diarrhea: