The thought of colon cancer can be scary— especially being that it’s the third most common cancer in both men and women. And unfortunately, symptoms don’t manifest themselves until the disease has become more advanced. With that said, many people will have signs of the disease at an early stage— many of which can be overlooked. Like all cancers, it is best to catch and treat colon cancer early, so if you notice any of these five signs, be sure to schedule an appointment with your doctor.
1. Unexplained weight loss
Unexplained weight loss isn’t just a sign of colon cancer, but other cancers as well. If you lose more than ten pounds over a period of a few months without trying, it’s worth looking into.
Colon cancer can lead to unexplained weight loss in different ways. Sometimes, the cancer can cause a decrease in appetite. Other times, the cancer grows to the point of causing a partial or even a total bowel obstruction. Regardless, either situation can be dangerous, putting you at risk for loss in muscle mass and malnutrition as well.
2. Fatigue and weakness
Sometimes, fatigue can be confused for tiredness. However, they are not the same. Tiredness can usually be remedied by sleep and rest. On the other hand, cancer-related fatigue is different, often being described as feeling tired, weak, worn-out, heavy, slow, or having no energy or get-up-and-go. If you feel what could be fatigue, it’s important to visit your doctor to determine the cause.
3. Abdominal cramps
Depending on the location of the tumor and other factors, some people with colon cancer may not experience abdominal pain (cramping) until the disease is in its later stages. However, for others, abdominal pain can be an early sign of colon cancer.
Keep in mind that abdominal pain can result from other issues including non-cancerous conditions like hemorrhoids and irritable bowel syndrome. Still, if you are experiencing abdominal pain that started recently, is severe, and unexplained by some other condition, it is time to talk to your doctor.
4. Blood in the stool
One warning sign of colon cancer is blood in the stool. In some cases, this blood may be bright red and very noticeable. It may appear on its own, or you may notice it only with bowel movements. In other cases, blood from colon cancer may turn the stool darker. Bleeding can also be so mild that you don’t see it at all.
While blood in your stool may have many different causes, including hemorrhoids or other issues, it should always be reported to your doctor— especially if it happens more than once.
5. Changes in bowel habits
Bowel changes like constipation, diarrhea, or narrow stools can be normal if they are temporary. However, if they don’t go away after a few days, you should definitely mention them to your doctor as they are one of the first signs of colon cancer.
Again, these changes can be attributed to other less serious conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome. Still, you should always see a doctor to rule out cancer when bowel habits change and don’t go back to normal.
Remember, if you notice any of these— or any other signs of colon cancer— don’t ignore them. Please make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible for testing to rule out cancer. Additionally, if you are over the age of 50 or are at high risk of developing this disease, it is also important to schedule colon cancer screenings as recommended by your physician.