Young man holding his stomach in pain

Colon Cancer Signs and Symptoms

Highlights

  • Colon cancer rarely produces symptoms in its early stages.
  • Other conditions may also cause symptoms like blood in your stool and abdominal discomfort.
  • If you have any of these symptoms, let your doctor know.
  • At-home FIT testing is better for early colorectal cancer detection. 

Colon cancer symptoms may not appear in the early stages of the disease. Therefore, relying on the symptoms to determine whether you should screen for colon cancer is not recommended. Regular screening can catch the disease in its early stages, when colorectal cancer is easier to treat and eliminate. 

Colon Cancer Symptoms

The symptoms of colon cancer are the same as the symptoms of many other conditions affecting your digestive system. Conditions that can produce symptoms similar to colon cancer are:            

  • Hemorrhoids
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Various infections
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Crohn’s disease 

You may or may not have colon cancer if you have any of the following symptoms. See a doctor to exclude colon cancer as a possible cause. 

  • An unusual shift in your bowel habits. You may have diarrhea, constipation, or thin, narrow stool. Such changes may occur normally. But if they last for more than a few days, you should let your doctor know.
  • Abdominal discomfort. Pain, an excess of gas, and cramps accompany many abdominal conditions. When these symptoms persist, you should screen for colon cancer.
  • Blood in your stool. Colorectal cancer can cause blood in your stool. Some colon cancer screening methods look for traces of blood. The blood seeping into your stool can make it darker in color to the point of appearing black. Colon bleeding may not always paint your stool black, however. Sometimes, a low red blood cell count in a blood test is the only way to tell that you are losing blood through your intestine.
  • Bright red blood in your stool. Rectal cancer can cause bleeding into your stool from the end of your digestive tract. Your body is unable to digest this blood, so it appears bright red.
  • Inexplicable and unintended weight loss. If you lose weight without any significant changes to your diet and lifestyle, you may have a health problem. Colon cancer can cause unwanted weight loss, seemingly out of the blue. See a doctor if this happens to you.
  • The inability to gain relief. Feeling like you have to “go” again right after a bowel movement can be a colorectal cancer symptom as well.
  • Feeling tired all the time. Colon cancer has far-reaching adverse effects on your body. If you constantly bleed, losing red blood cells, you become anemic. You lack energy and feel fatigued all the time. If this state persists for several weeks, visit your doctor.
  • Iron deficiency. Anemia is a condition affecting billions worldwide. It is common among children and menstruating or pregnant women. In healthy people, it could be a sign of trouble, so it warrants further medical investigation. With colon cancer, iron deficiency can arise from bleeding.
  • Jaundice. The yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes occurs when there is a problem with the liver. Colon cancer can spread to the liver, so jaundice can be a sign of late-stage colon cancer.
  • Pelvic pain. Pelvic pain can be a sign of many conditions, including colon cancer. If you have persistent pelvic pain, see your doctor.
  • Rectal cramps. Abnormal bowel movements may cause rectal cramping, also known as proctalgia fugax
Doctor talking to his patient
Talk to your doctor if any of these symptoms persist

Colon cancer symptoms in males are the same as in females, but men are more likely to develop colon cancer than women. 

Interpreting Colon Cancer Symptoms

Colon cancer occurs more frequently in men over 50 but can occur at any age. Thus, if you experience any of its symptoms, you should see a doctor and test for colorectal cancer, regardless of your age.

Tell your doctor everything you can about your symptoms, including how long you’ve been experiencing them. Doctors usually recommend testing to confirm or exclude colorectal cancer as the main cause of your symptoms. 

Some testing methods are: 

  • Colonoscopy
  • CAT scan
  • Biopsy
  • Gene tests
  • Ultrasound
  • Protein tests 

The problem with colon cancer symptoms is that they usually signal late-stage disease. Therefore, you should not rely on symptoms to catch an early-stage colon cancer.

FIT Tests Indicate Colon Cancer More Reliably Than Symptoms

Fecal immunochemical tests look for traces of blood in your stool. Doctors have been considering FIT testing as a triage method to determine whether patients with colon cancer symptoms should undergo a colonoscopy. 

A 2019 study determined that FIT tests are reliable enough to detect colon cancer in symptomatic patients.

Doctors can use these tests to determine which symptomatic patients should be referred to colonoscopy. Hospitals with long waiting lists can use FIT tests to optimize their resources. 

FIT Testing Sample Collection Kit
FIT tests work

While there is no better option for colon cancer detection than a colonoscopy, colonoscopies are more expensive than FIT tests. They are also more intrusive. 

Before undergoing a colonoscopy, you have to prepare your bowels for a few days. The doctor then inserts a flexible tube through your anus and uses a camera to look at the inner lining of your colon. Through the same tube, your doctor can take biopsies and remove polyps. 

A FIT test only requires a stool sample. At-home FIT tests allow you to take a specimen in the privacy of your home and mail it in for analysis. If your result is positive, your doctor can recommend a colonoscopy. If your test results are negative, the recommendation is to repeat the test once a year. Frequent testing ensures the efficiency of your screening. 

At-home FIT testing can help you catch colorectal cancer early, but it does not exclude or replace colonoscopy. Think of it as the first line of colon cancer screening. Follow the instructions in your test kit closely to avoid skewing your results. 

eDrugstore Helps You Screen for Colon Cancer

We carry at-home FIT testing kits you can order and have delivered quickly and discreetly. 

We follow up positive results with free doctor consultation. Relying on colon cancer symptoms to detect the problem is dangerous, but at-home FIT testing is an easy and cost-effective way to screen for colon cancer.

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