In order to recognize if you have colon cancer, it is vital to know the signs and symptoms of colon cancer. However, most of the symptoms caused by a carcinoma of the colon can also be seen with other diseases that isn’t a cancer, such as hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome, and infections of inflammatory bowel disease. Many of the patients who present with these kind of symptoms usually do not have cancer, but if you have any of the following symptoms it is a sign that you have to be checked by a doctor. It may or may not be cancer.
So what are the signs and symptoms of colon cancer?
- A palpable mass on the abdomen – This is the typical presentation of colon cancer. A mass may be felt in the right lower abdomen. It is often a firm to hard and irregular mass.
- Alteration in the bowel habits – Recent constipation or diarrhea that has been present for a few days is a symptom of colon cancer. Diarrhea occurs as a result of the hard fecal balls, which irritates the colonic mucosa resulting in increased secretion of mucus produced by the colon.
- Tenesmus – This is the feeling of incomplete evacuation. This means that even after passing stools, you still have a feeling to empty your bowels. It feels as if you have not evacuated your bowels completely. Carcinomas or the presence of polyps in the lower two thirds of the rectum may be perceived as masses of feces. This stimulates the feeling of need to defecate.
- Bleeding from the rectum
- Blood in stools or dark colored stools
- Abdominal pain – A dull aching pain in your stomach may be present. A colicky pain that comes and goes may be due to a chronic obstruction of your bowels.
- Loss of weight – A non-specific symptom of all cancers.
- Loss of Appetite – Another non-specific symptom of cancers.
- Distension of the abdomen – This could mean that there is fluid built up in your tummy and is often a sign of metastasized cancer to the liver.
- Iron deficiency anemia – This is a sign of long term bleeding which can be due to occult bleeding from the tumor. If the anemia is so severe you may develop symptoms such as shortness of breath, easily fatigued after a minor activity, etc.
Usually these symptoms of colon cancer tend to appear late, once the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Therefore, it is important that you investigate for colon cancer before the symptoms appear especially if you have a strong family history of colon cancer or any of the other risk factors which may predispose you to colon cancer. This is known as screening for colon cancer.