Signs and Symptoms of Colon Cancer

Classified as a colorectal cancer, colon cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in the United States, with more than 100,000 new cases diagnosed each year. Starting as a growth, or polyp, in the colon’s lining, colon cancer may not trigger any warning signs until the disease has progressed. That’s why it’s so important to recognize the signs and symptoms of colon cancer: The earlier you can detect them, the higher your probability that subsequent treatment will be successful.
Doctor holding colon cancer awareness ribbon
Early symptoms of colon cancer include:

Unexplained anemia

One of the earliest symptoms of colon cancer is a new and unexplained iron deficiency, or anemia. Since anemia and cancer are often in close correlation, your doctor will likely suggest a colon cancer screening and other tests to determine whether the disease is causing your anemia.

Changes in Bowel Habits

While diarrhea and constipation are commonly associated with minor health issues, they can also signal colon cancer. Any changes in bowel movements – especially blood in the stool – could indicate that the disease is present. This is because colon cancer often causes bleeding into the digestive system; the blood appears in your stool and makes it look darker than normal. Other bowel changes that could point to colon cancer include:

  • Stool that is more narrow or thinner in appearance for days on end
  • Bright red spots in the stool
  • Persistent urge to use the bathroom
  • No relief after a bowel movement; you still feel like you have to go
  • Rectal bleeding

Frequent Abdominal Discomfort

Pain in the abdominal region could signal a range of non-serious health conditions. However, if the pain is sudden, severe and lasts for an abnormally long time, it could indicate colon cancer. You may also notice increased cramping, bloating and gas.

Unexplained Weight Loss

One of the most recognizable symptoms of colon cancer – and cancer in general – is unexpected or unexplained weight loss. Cancer cells hinder the conversion of food to energy, and they consume much of the body’s available energy. That combined with large tumors potentially blocking the colon and affecting bowel habits can add up to unexplained weight loss. If you lose 10 or more pounds within six months without intent, consult with your doctor right away.

Chronic Fatigue

In addition to taking a toll on the body’s energy supply, cancer cells can also cause fatigue – prolonged exhaustion that is not relieved with rest. Colon cancer can also cause internal blood loss, resulting in fatigue as a side effect. Unexplained weakness can also be a symptom of fatigue, so it’s important to get to the root of the cause as soon as possible.

RCCA is Here for You

Only your doctor can determine whether colon cancer is causing your symptoms. If a colonoscopy or other colon screening test points to cancer, count on Regional Cancer Care Associates. With locations throughout New Jersey, Maryland and Connecticut, you’ll find state-of-the-art care from our supportive and knowledgeable team of experts. For more information, contact us today.