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5 Major Signs and Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer

5 Major Signs and Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer

Most people are aware of when their body wants to tell them something. But sometimes, the signs of a disease can be subtle. In this article, we discuss the major signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer.

The colon and rectum, explained

These two organs play important roles in the digestive process. The colon, a.k.a. the large bowel or large intestine, absorbs the water after food breaks down in the small intestine. Waste is stored in the rectum before exiting the body through the anus.

A healthy colon is vital for good digestion while a healthy rectum makes sure that waste is properly eliminated from the body. Just like other parts of the body, the colon and the rectum are both vulnerable to diseases like cancer. Colorectal cancer happens when cancer cells develop in either the colon or the rectum. Many people refer to this disease as “colon cancer.”

Colon and rectal cancer are usually grouped together because of how similar their symptoms are.

It pays to know about the signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer. It’s important to note that some of the symptoms below aren’t immediate signs of colorectal cancer. The best way to confirm a diagnosis is to seek medical advice from a health professional.

Signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer

Sometimes, colorectal cancer may not show any signs or symptoms (especially if it’s still in its early stages). While some of these symptoms may not immediately signal the presence of cancer, it’s still good to schedule a check-up with your doctor. The following are possible signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer:

Unusual bowel movement

Colorectal cancer usually begins as a polyp, which is a protruding growth of tissue found on the inner lining of the colon or rectum. As the polyp grows, it may start to affect the normal functions of the affected organs.

Bowel movement is an important indicator of one’s overall health. Usually, you’re able to determine what’s normal and what’s not when it comes to your bowel movement. If you’re suddenly experiencing persistent diarrhea or constipation and can’t pin down the exact cause, it may be a sign of colorectal cancer. Additionally, if you’re experiencing a sudden change in consistency in your bowel movements then it may be time to visit the doctor.

Presence of blood in the stool

Blood in the stool may not be obvious at first sight. Here are a few instances to look out for that may signal blood in the stool:

  • Stool that appears dark brown or black
  • Water in the toilet bowl has tinges of red or pink
  • Presence of blood on toilet paper after wiping

Blood may appear in your stool because of hemorrhoids, but it may also be a sign of bleeding in the rectum or colon.

Tummy ache

People can get stomach aches for a variety of reasons unrelated to cancer. Just because you get a minor stomach ache from time to time doesn’t mean you have colorectal cancer. However, if you feel a sudden and severe pain in your abdomen that doesn’t go away, it’s best to consult your doctor as this is one of the signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer.

Additionally, if you’re feeling discomfort in your abdomen that involves gas or cramps that doesn’t seem to go away on its own, then it might also be a sign of something serious.

Unexplained weight loss

Unexplained weight loss can be a sign of cancer (colorectal, stomach, and other types).

Inability to empty your bowels

If you’re suddenly unable to empty out your bowels completely, it may be a sign of colorectal cancer.

More often than not, colorectal cancer may not even cause any noticeable symptoms. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms above, consult your doctor.

How do doctors diagnose colorectal cancer?

Detecting this type of cancer during its earliest stages means having a greater chance of successfully treating it. In general, those who are above 50 should regularly go for colorectal cancer screening. Some tests that you may take are:

Colonoscopy. This procedure is used to locate any suspicious areas in the large intestine, including the colon and rectum. A colonoscopy can also be used by your doctor to perform a biopsy, where a sample tissue is taken from the lining of the colon or rectum for further inspection.

Stool tests. Your doctor may also perform a fecal occult blood test (FOBT) or fecal immunochemical test (FIT), which can detect any traces of blood in your stool. Unlike a colonoscopy, a stool test can be done from the comfort of your home. Consult your doctor regarding the test/s that you might have to take.

Key takeaways

The signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer may be unnoticeable especially during the initial stages of the disease. Determining your risk of this colorectal cancer as well as learning more about early screening tests can be one of the best things you can do for your health.

Learn more about Cancer here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Picture of the author
Written by Den Alibudbud on Dec 14, 2020
Medically reviewed by Dr. John Paul Abrina, M.D.
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