Learning about the different signs and symptoms of colon cancer and understanding the possible causes associated with it is important as these help patients receive an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Some colon cancer patients may not show any symptoms initially; however, as the disease progresses, they start exhibiting symptoms. Therefore, along with keeping an eye on the symptoms, it is also necessary to opt for regular health checkups to catch colon cancer in its early stages.
Colon cancer is found to be more common in individuals who have the following risk factors:
Colon cancer symptoms do not present early in most patients. Once the disease starts progressing, the patients start experiencing symptoms. Symptoms of colon cancer in women are similar to signs of colon cancer in men. Early colon cancer symptoms, if present, include:
Any change in the bowel habits, such as frequent constipation or diarrhea, maybe a sign of colon cancer. Patients should also consult a doctor if they have narrowed stools.
Blood in the stool is one of the most common colon cancer symptoms. However, bloody stool may also be due to hemorrhoids or anal tears. Patients should consult the doctor if they have dark black or brown stools as this helps them with a definitive diagnosis.
Patients with colon cancer may experience rectal bleeding. That said, other conditions like anal fissures, hemorrhoids, IBS, etc., can also cause rectal bleeding. For a conclusive diagnosis, one must see a doctor.
Bleeding due to colon cancer may result in anemia. Anemia causes weakness and fatigue, which may also be the early symptoms of colon cancer.
Unintended weight loss is sometimes one of the early signs and symptoms of colon cancer. Cancer results in weight loss due to various mechanisms. These include difficulty eating due to nausea and lack of appetite. Further, cancer causes inflammation in the body. The inflammatory mediators also alter the metabolism and lead to weight loss.
Patients with colon cancer also experience vague abdominal cramps or pain. It may be due to the invasion of cancer into the walls of the colon or the spread of the tumor to nearby structures. It is one of the early symptoms of colon cancer. It could also be one of the signs of advanced-stage colon cancer.
Gas, bloating with a feeling of dullness, and abdominal pain are common signs of colon cancer. Bloating occurs due to the inability to pass gas because of obstruction by the tumor.
Nausea and vomiting may also be experienced by patients with colon cancer due to obstruction by the tumor in passing gas or solid or liquid waste.
Patients with advanced-stage colon adenocarcinoma experience various symptoms, such as unexplained weight loss, rectal bleeding, bloody stool, and pain in the stomach.
Patients with squamous cell carcinoma experience unintended weight loss, altered bowel habits, abdominal pain, and rectal bleeding.
The majority of patients with carcinoid tumors do not experience any symptoms. Symptoms, if present, include bleeding, weight loss, colon obstruction, constipation, and abdominal pain.
Patients with colon lymphoma have weakness, diarrhea, night sweats, gastrointestinal bleeding, bowel obstruction, fever, unintended weight loss, and abdominal pain.
Symptoms of gastrointestinal stromal tumors include tiredness, blood in the stools, and abdominal pain.
Patients with leiomyosarcoma experience several non-specific symptoms, including obscure or fresh rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, intra-abdominal hemorrhage, bowel obstruction, altered bowel habits, weight loss, and a frequent urge to use the restroom.
Patients with colon melanoma experience nausea and vomiting, irregular and difficult defecation, and abdominal pain.
Patients usually ask about what causes colon cancer. Some of the common colon cancer causes include:
Colon cancer mostly occurs in people over the age of 50. However, there is an increasing trend of colon cancer occurrence in people under 50.
People with a family history of colon cancer have a higher risk of developing it. Certain inherited conditions, such as Lynch syndrome, are also reasons for colon cancer.
Those with colorectal polyps also have an increased risk of developing colon cancer.
IBD, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, may also cause colon cancer because of persistent inflammation in the colon.
Obesity increases the likelihood of developing colon cancer. It also increases the risk of death due to colon cancer. Excess weight causes an imbalance in hormone levels and other substances that regulate the division of cells.
Physically inactive people may have colon cancer. It may be due to increased body weight and obesity.
Tobacco consumption and excessive intake of alcohol may also be possible causes of colon cancer.
Diabetes causes colon cancer through various mechanisms. High levels of sugar and insulin create a favorable environment for tumor formation in the colon.
Reports suggest that a low dose of aspirin may have a protective effect against colon cancer.
Radiation exposure, as a part of radiation therapy for treating other abdominal cancers, may also serve as one of the possible colon cancer causes.
One must see a gastroenterologist if they are experiencing persistent GI issues and other symptoms of colon cancer. This is important for timely detection and treatment of colon cancer.
Colon cancer causes and symptoms are not exclusively specific to colon cancer. Colon cancer symptoms do not occur during the early stages. Early signs of colon cancer or stage 1 colon cancer symptoms, if present, usually overlap with other colon problem symptoms. It is important to consult the doctor in case of any symptoms of concern.
Factors like obesity, diabetes, physical inactivity, radiation exposure, and tobacco consumption may increase the risk of colon cancer, and those having these risk factors should pay extra attention to health, opt for regular health checkups, and see a doctor when something is not normal.