People usually do not experience any symptoms in the initial stages of colorectal cancer. When the symptoms occur, it varies depending on the location and size of the cancer in the large bowel. Various studies show that the average time period between the onset of the symptoms and diagnosis is about 14 weeks. However, there is no connection between the cancer stage and overall duration.
Hence, it is important to get regularly screened instead of relying on the symptoms of the cancer to alert the person about the tumor. The colorectal cancer could be present for years before showing any symptoms. Nevertheless, knowing about the symptoms and the changes to look for will certainly not hurt.
Signs and Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer
If your bowel movement is less than thrice a week then it calls for slight adjustments in exercise and diet. However, if the constipation is severe it can be a sign of colorectal cancer. The waste material is usually mushy in the initial part of the colon. Hence, it can move around anything without any problem.
However, as it comes closer to the colon’s end, the stool solidifies and it is difficult to pass, when there are any obstacles. Also, it is difficult for the waste to maneuver, if there is a tumor in the last part of the colon, thereby causing constipation.
Likewise, if there is diarrhea for quite a long time it can indicate colon cancer and must be followed up immediately by visiting your family physician. It requires a conscious effort from your side to recognize the changes in the bowel habits.
Sometimes, the bowel obstruction in colon might be due to a tumor. Depending on the condition and the severity of obstruction, liquids, solids and at times even gas might be prevented to pass by.
This results in abdominal cramps, which can be quite painful, especially if the obstruction restricts the blood flow. Such excruciating cramps also indicate that the bowel wall is perforated by a tumor and this is an emergency condition.
The form in which the stool passes out of the body can give enough clues as to what is going on in the body. For instance, ribbon-like or small-caliber stools show that the waste is squeezed by an obstacle. In case of rectal or colon cancer, this obstacle will be a tumor at the end of the rectum or colon.
Blood in Stools
This is one of the most common signs of colon cancer. As the tumor grows in size, it bleeds whenever the feces pass out of the colon. In case the tumor is at the last part of the colon or near the anus, bright red blood is commonly seen. However, stools are dry and the blood is concealed inside the stools, if the tumor is on the right side or in the initial part of the colon.
Sometimes, the blood is seen on the toilet paper or it is separate from the feces. Although blood in the stools is a symptom of colorectal cancer, it can indicate other conditions as well such as fissures or hemorrhoids in your anus. Also, intake of certain types of foods such as red licorice and beets can turn the stools red. Therefore, you need to check your stools promptly to know your condition precisely.
Nausea and Vomiting
In some cases, vomiting and nausea can point to colon cancer. The digestive contents can be prevented from moving forward if there is a large tumor on the right side of the rectum. This can result in the food returning back, thereby causing nausea.
Bloating and Gas
A pattern of bloating and gas might indicate a tumor that is maturing in the colon and this result in occasional blockage. A temporary bowel obstruction is caused whenever the waste gets trapped in the tumor as it passes by. The bloated feeling occurs, when the air is trapped due to blockage.
Fatigue or Lethargy
There might be anemia or iron deficiency in the person with a tumor and this condition can lead to extreme tiredness or lethargy. There is bleeding due to tumors and this result in loss of iron, which is an essential component in transporting oxygen to the cells.
This is a characteristic symptom of tumors if it is present in the initial part of the colon. As the colon is quite large at the beginning, tumors can become huge and tend to bleed before resulting in any other symptoms. The bleeding usually goes undetected as the blood dries up before it leaves the colon.
Loss of Appetite or Unexplained Loss in Weight
If there is unexpected weight loss along with other symptoms it is a sure sign of colon cancer. The discomfort and pain caused due to a tumor can result in loss of appetite and this leads to weight loss. The release of chemicals due to tumor increases one’s metabolism and this is also the reason behind the weight loss.
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