Colon Cancer Symptoms

During the early stages, CRC often produces no warning signs. In many cases, symptoms appear only when the cancer is at an advanced stage, or has spread to the lymph nodes or other organs of the body. For this reason routine screening, to detect the condition when it is treatable, is vital.

When symptoms do occur, they may include:

  • Rectal bleeding or bloody stools that tends to be bright red if the cancer is located in the lower part of the intestine, in the rectum or anus, and black or very dark if the tumor is in the upper regions of the intestine
  • Changes in bowel habits, such as chronic constipation or diarrhea, or frequent and unexplained alternating between diarrhea and constipation
  • A change in the shape of the stool, typically a narrowing of the stool that lasts for more than a few days
  • Continuous sensation, discomfort or urge to have a bowel movement, particularly if the need to open the bowel does not resolve after passing the stool
  • Persistent abdominal pain with frequent, localized cramping pain in the lower abdomen
  • Frequent gas pains and nausea that persist for more than a few days
  • Chronic fatigue, weakness or paleness, often due to iron-deficiency anemia, associated with passing bloody stools
  • Unexplained weight loss not due to dieting or increased exercise.

Of course, any of these symptoms may be caused by conditions unrelated to cancer of the colon. However, you should consult your physician if you experience any or a combination of the symptoms listed above.

Most cases of CRC start as non-cancerous growths called polyps. These benign tumors can be routinely removed during an exploratory procedure called a colonoscopy. Their removal at the pre-cancerous stage can actually prevent the development of colorectal cancer (CRC).

Your physician can arrange a sigmoidoscopy or a colonoscopy, and a routine test for bloody stools.

The sooner the cancer is detected, the easier it is to treat.