Colon model

Colon Cancer Symptoms: When Should I Call a Doctor?

Highlights 

  • Colorectal cancer, also known as colon cancer, is a disease that can affect the colon or rectum.
  • Colon cancer symptoms are not always noticeable in the early stage of colon cancer.
  • Some people are at a greater risk for colon cancer and may need to start screening earlier in adulthood or be screened more frequently. 
  • At-home colorectal cancer screening makes it easier to stay on top of screening for colon cancer.
  • Find resources for colon cancer screening and for managing your health with eDrugstore.

Colon cancer can be caught early, thanks to routine screening. It’s even easier to screen for colon cancer thanks to modern screening methods, such as using an at-home colorectal cancer test kit. You can now test discreetly and follow up with a provider from the comfort of your own home. 

Colon Cancer Overview

Colon cancer occurs when cells in the colon or rectum grow abnormally. Sometimes this excess cell growth forms polyps in the colon or rectum. Colon or rectal polyps can be benign, or they can become cancerous. 

Colon cancer is in the top five most commonly diagnosed cancers for both men and women. Fortunately, colon cancer is highly treatable when caught early. 

Routine screening helps to identify polyps so they can be removed before they cause problems. Screening also helps to identify colon cancer while it’s in the early stages. The earlier colon cancer is identified, the better your odds of successful treatment. 

Colon Cancer Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of colon cancer depend on the location and progression of the disease. Polyps do not always cause symptoms. This means you could have polyps and not realize it until you’ve been screened.

People who experience noticeable symptoms are most likely to notice a change in their bowel habits. For example, you might experience diarrhea, constipation, or a change in the consistency of your stool. 

Colon cancer symptoms include:

  • Change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea or constipation
  • Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool
  • Persistent abdominal discomfort, pain, aches, or cramps
  • Feeling unable to completely empty your bowels
  • Unexplained weight loss 
  • Weakness or fatigue

Who is at Risk for Colon Cancer?

Your risk for colon cancer increases with age. Certain conditions and lifestyle factors can also increase your risk for colon cancer.

Risk factors for colon cancer include:

  • Bowel disease. Having an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, can place you at a greater risk for colon cancer.
  • Family history. Having a family history of colon cancer or colorectal polyps can increase your risk of colon cancer. 
  • Genetic conditions. Certain genetic conditions, such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch syndrome), can increase risk for colon cancer.
  • Lifestyle factors. A lack of physical activity, an unhealthy diet, tobacco use, and alcohol use can contribute to risk for certain cancers, including colon cancer.

Prevention and Screening for Colorectal Cancer

Doctor talking to his male patient and smiling

Routine screening is the best way to catch colon cancer early. Screening can also catch polyps before they become cancerous. The best screening routine for you will depend on your age and personal risk factors. 

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (Task Force) recommends that people with an average risk of colon cancer begin screening for colon cancer around age 45. People at increased risk for colon cancer should consider screening earlier or more frequently. Your provider can help you to determine the best screening test(s) and frequency of testing according to your personal risk. 

There are several screening options to choose from. Each test option varies in its level of invasiveness, accuracy, and recommended frequency.

The Task Force recommends the following tests to screen for polyps and colon cancer:

  • Stool tests
  • Colonoscopy
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy
  • CT colonography

If you receive a positive result on a stool test, CT colonography, or flexible sigmoidoscopy, then you will likely need to follow up with a colonoscopy to confirm your results. 

When Should I Call a Doctor?

Speak to your provider if you’re experiencing any symptoms of colon cancer. If you are at increased risk of colon cancer, you can communicate your concerns to your provider and discuss your screening options.

Questions to ask your doctor include:

  • What screening do you recommend for me? Why?
  • What tests are right for me? Why?
  • How often should I be screened for colon cancer?
  • How do I prepare for screening? Do I need to change my diet or medication before my test(s)?
  • When will I receive my test results?
  • Is at-home testing right for me?
  • Do I need to prepare differently for testing at home?

At-Home Colorectal Cancer Screening

Sample cup

You can now complete certain colorectal screening tests from the comfort of your own home. One of the most popular stool tests is the fecal immunochemical test (FIT). This test uses antibodies to detect blood in your stool, which can indicate colon cancer. 

We carry the myLAB Box Colorectal Cancer Screening kit, which includes a stool sample collection kit and a prepaid envelope for returning your sample. This is the FIT test, which providers recommend repeating annually. You will also receive a virtual follow-up appointment with a provider if you get a positive result.

There’s no need to schedule an appointment or deal with the hassle of a waiting room when you use an at-home test kit. Simply open your package, collect your sample, and ship it to the lab in prepaid, discreet packaging. You can view your results online within two to five business days. 

If you’re concerned about colorectal cancer risk factors, order your at-home screening test today.

Find Support with eDrugstore

At eDrugstore, we make it easy for men to talk to healthcare professionals about a variety of men’s health issues, such as erectile dysfunction and sexually transmitted infections. Take advantage of our free online consultation to order medications online. Virtual medical consultations and shipping are always free.

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