Colon cancer – also sometimes referred to more broadly as colorectal cancer because they are so closely linked – is one of the most common forms of cancer. Left untreated, it can quickly spread to other parts of the body and become malignant, which is why frequent screening is so important.
It usually takes some time for colon cancer to progress, and there are instances when it presents observable signs. Given that this disease has a 90% survival rate when treated early, it is helpful to know the first signs of colon cancer and to take prompt action if you do see these signs, which include the following:
Sudden Change in Bowel Habits
Cancerous growths in the large intestine (colon) typically start as small, benign lumps of tissue called polyps. Polyps that are becoming cancerous can cause changes in bowel behavior, such as constant constipation, constant diarrhea, or a sudden and constant change in your stool.
If the change persists for several weeks, but your eating habits have not changed, it’s a good idea to see a gastroenterologist for an evaluation. The change may be a warning sign that points toward colon cancer, but they can also indicate other causes, such as bacterial or viral infections.
Blood in the Stool
Another hallmark symptom of colon cancer is the presence of significant amounts of blood in the stool. In healthy bowels, the intestinal lining releases minuscule amounts of blood into the stool, so it should not be apparent. However, a cancerous growth can bleed, leaving bloodstains on the stool.
Because colon cancer is not the only medical condition that can cause intestinal bleeding, you will need to be evaluated by a skilled physician. Your gastroenterologist can then correctly diagnose you and give you the proper treatment.
Weakness and Weight Loss
Cancers consume a large part of the body’s resources, since cancerous growths are made up of cells that keep on dividing without restraint. As the tumor grows, it takes more oxygen and nutrients away from the body to feed the tumor. As a result, you can start to become weaker.
If you begin to feel constantly tired for no obvious reason, see your doctor. Persistent fatigue is a classic symptom of most cancer types, including colon cancer.
Another sign to watch out for is unexplained weight loss. If you are eating and exercising normally, your weight should remain at healthy levels. Cancer interferes with this balance, sometimes causing dramatic weight loss.
Early Colon Cancer Detection
Many of the signs of colon cancer resemble symptoms of other diseases, so the best way to stave off colon cancer is by getting a regular colonoscopy. This diagnostic procedure can not only help your gastroenterologist assess whether you are at risk of colon cancer, but the physician can also remove any polyps right then and there in order to help prevent the disease from developing.
If you are in Westlake or Brooklyn, Ohio, schedule a consultation with our medical team here at North Shore Gastroenterology. Call us today at (440) 808-1212 or schedule an appointment online now. We look forward to serving you.