As with most diseases, early detection of colon cancer is one of the top factors in being able to get the most effective treatment. While regular check-ups and wellness appointments with your family doctor are never a bad idea, the following list of common signs and symptoms of colon cancer can alert you to a potential problem that you can have checked out.
- A change in bowel habits. If you suddenly have issues like constipation or diarrhea and it lasts more than a few days, you may want to ask your doctor about next steps. The same goes for a narrowing of stool that won’t go away as well.
- Cramping or abdominal pain. While there can be a number of reasons for stomach pain or cramping, use the PQRST method (pain, quality, region, severity, timing) to determine whether or not it is severe enough to warrant a visit to your doctor.
- Rectal bleeding, bloody or dark stools. The color of the blood can be an indicator of what is going on. Bright red bleeding often means that there is some bleeding in the colon or rectum.
- Weakness and fatigue. This can be worrisome if it comes out of nowhere and is not typical of your overall health.
- Unintended weight loss. If you experience a pretty drastic drop in weight and you haven’t changed anything about your diet, a call to your doctor is most likely in order.
- Lack of relief from bowel movements. If you regularly feel like you have to have a bowel movement and the feeling won’t go away even after you do have one, this could be a sign of a problem.
It’s important to note that things other than colon cancer can cause most of these symptoms and this is by no means meant to be an exhaustive list of symptoms. But no one knows your body like you do, so if you feel like something is wrong or just “off,” it never hurts to get a professional medical opinion.
Colon cancer is diagnosed in a couple of different ways including a combination of a physical exam, blood work and colonoscopy. If anything is found (such as a polyp) a biopsy may be required to make a final determination.
Other sources of information: