Colon or bowel cancer comes from growths (also known as polyps) that develop in the inner lining of the colon. Fortunately, screening treatments and tests are available to help remove and detect these precancerous growths or polyps. However, left untreated, the cancer can easily spread to other parts of the body.
Colorectal or colon cancer begins in the large intestine. The long intestine or the colon refers to the long tube where digested food passes before it goes out of the rectum. What makes colon cancer tricky for patients to detect? Some colon cancer symptoms are identical to symptoms of conditions that are less serious.
Common Colon Cancer Symptoms
Some of the most common colon cancer symptoms include vomiting, unexplained weight loss, and belly or abdominal pain. Other symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath and fatigue. Both are considered common symptoms of anemia, which can be a telltale sign of colon cancer.
- Blood in the stool. If you notice blood in the toilet after wiping or pooping or if the stool is bright or dark red then it can be an indication of colon cancer. However, it does not always follow that blood in the stool means you have colon cancer. At times, factors like eating beets to hemorrhoids can alter the appearance of your poop. It would be best to check with your healthcare provider to ensure it is nothing serious.
- Bloated stomach. Many factors can cause stomach bloating. However, it is recommended that you seek medical attention if the bloating lasts for over a week or gets worse. It is also ideal to have yourself checked if the bloating is accompanied by other symptoms including blood in the poop or vomiting.
- Bowel habits change. Check with your healthcare provider if you experience persistent diarrhea or constipation.
- Belly or abdominal pain. If you experience abdominal pain with no known cause, visit your doctor right away. The same thing is advisable if the abdominal pain is severe or if the pain does not go away.
Conditions That Increases Risk for Colon Cancer
There are certain medical conditions that can increase one’s risk of developing colorectal cancer. Some of the conditions include but are not limited to:
- Having many polyps. Those with several colon polyps — including serrated polyps, adenomas, and other types — have an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer. The tendency to have numerous colon polyps may be inherited.
- Family history of cancer (including colon cancer). Those with close family members who have had cancer have an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer. Close family members refer to children, siblings, and biological parents. The risk is also higher when the family member had colon cancer before the age of 45.
- Inherited conditions. Some medical conditions such as familial adenomatous polyposis and Lynch syndrome is known to increase one’s risk of developing colon cancer. The condition can also develop if the patient has inherited the gene that causes colorectal cancer.
- Inflammatory bowel disease. Those with conditions such as Crohn’s colitis and chronic ulcerative colitis are known to have an increased risk of developing colon cancer. One’s risk is also higher when they have an inflammatory bowel disease that has lasted for more than seven years.
- Family has a history of polyps. If your child, sibling, or parent has advanced polyp, you also have an increased risk of developing cancer. Advanced polyps can be large ones. Pathologists can consider polyps as advanced when they observe changes when they check it under a microscope. It is also considered an advanced polyp if there are signs that it contains cells that are cancerous.