10 Symptoms of Colon Cancer
Colon Cancer implies the presence of cancerous tumors in the colon or rectum. Being the third most commonly occurring form of cancer across the world, it usually begins with small, non-benign polyps which may turn cancerous on remaining unchecked. Regular colonoscopies may help detect these polyps before they become lethal. Even if they have turned cancerous and only spread as far as the walls of the colon, full recovery is possible. It is thus important for one to be cognizant of the following symptoms of colon cancer; early observation and subsequent diagnosis may save one’s life.
1. Change in Bowel Movements
Almost all patients with colon cancer experience a change in the pattern of bowel movements. They may begin to suffer recurrent bouts of diarrhea or constipation, without any identifiable cause for the same. Given the non-specific nature of randomly occurring bowel disturbance, these signs are often not taken seriously, and resolution comes with the intake of over-the-counter medications. But if one experiences an enduring change in the pattern of bowel movements, they should immediately get themselves tested for colon cancer.
2. Abnormal Stool Quality
The stool quality also tends to change once an individual develops colon cancer. Mostly, the stool acquires the nature of long, thin, “pencil stool,” basically losing caliber and thickness. In some cases, the stool’s color may also be abnormal; often dark due to bleeding in the digestive passage. Such signs are hard to miss, especially if this unusual stool quality is not a one-time occurrence but is observed for a protracted period.
3. Rectal Bleeding
With colon cancer, bleeding may occur in the lower digestive passage or some cases, even in the rectum. When it occurs in the lower digestive tract, the color of stool changes, but in the case of rectal bleeding, blood is visible almost as a separate discharge in one’s stool. Rectal bleeding is common in individuals who suffer more bouts of constipation than diarrhea through the course of the disease’s progression.
4. Abdominal Discomforts
It is common for those suffering from this condition to experience much abdominal pain, almost on a daily basis. They will feel excessively full and bloated, sometimes even without having eaten. They may have pelvic pain and stomach cramps, and in few cases, gas and belching problems. These symptoms are similar to several other conditions such as GERD, IBS, frequent indigestion, etc. and thus tend to get misdiagnosed.
5. Nausea and Vomiting
Not all of those who develop colon cancer experience nausea and vomiting. In some cases, however, the abdominal discomforts are accompanied by the urge to puke, which may or may not provoke a bout of vomiting. It is usually people with more sensitive digestive systems and compromised immunity who are likely to have these symptoms with colon cancer.
6. Loss of Appetite
In a significant number of colon cancer cases, patients exhibit a loss of appetite – a phenomenon not entirely understood. One possibility is that abdominal discomforts are off-putting and instinctively hardwire patients to avoid eating much. In cases where there aren’t too many symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, gas, etc., the reason for the loss of appetite is somewhat difficult to pinpoint.
7. Decrease in Weight
Weight loss associated with colon cancer can be attributed to various factors. One, of course, is the loss of appetite which leads to deficient food consumption and thus loss of body mass. Also, with cancer cells becoming active in the body, there is a certain degree of resistance the body puts up, trying to stem their multiplication and minimize damage. When the immune system works overtime, more calories are burnt than consumed, thus leading to further weight loss.
8. Unexplained Fatigue
Colon cancer, or any such critical condition for that matter, takes a toll on one’s energy levels. This is because on developing such a disease, the immune systems kicks into overdrive, thus leading to increasing energy consumption in the body. When the high rate of consumption is not complemented by replenished energy reserves, one is likely to feel weak, lethargic and sleepy without cause.
Older individuals with colon cancer, especially men and women over the age of 50, tend to develop anemia or iron deficiency post the onset of the condition. Anemia produces another range of symptoms such as weakness, fatigue, general malaise, inability to exercise and so on. In very severe cases, cardiac problems like palpitations, angina, etc. may be present though this is rare.
10. Shortness of Breath
Some individuals with colon cancer also report feeling short of breath very often. In most instances, this occurs in the elderly who have anemia as well. This shortness of breath implies an increased pressure of cardiac functioning which in itself is a serious health hazard as well.