Statistics show that 1 out of 24 persons are at risk of getting colon cancer. Early diagnosis is paramount for a good prognosis – these are the colon cancer symptoms you should watch out for.
Colon cancer is formed due to the growth of cancerous cells inside the large intestine. The longest part of the large intestine is called the colon, and its primary function is to extract water and salt from the solid wastes that exit the body through the rectum to be excreted from the anus. Colon cancer is also termed as rectal cancer, but that depends on where the tumor begins to spread. The inner lining of the colon or rectum is termed as a polyp, it is from here that most colon cancers begin to grow. There are two types of polyps – ‘adenomatous polyps’ (also known as ‘adenomas’, they are sometimes cancerous in nature) and ‘hyperplastic polyps’ (also known as ‘inflammatory polyps’, commonly found but are not pre-cancerous in nature). There are various factors that cause colon cancer such as polyps, mutations in the DNA, family genetics, and diet.
These malignant tumors once fully formed then travel through the blood and spread in other body organs. Colon cancer cells continue to grow and multiply instead of experiencing programmed cell death. If the polyps are not removed during colonoscopy, they grow into malignant cancerous cells overtime. Metastasis (spread of the cancerous cells) results in a severe condition where the disease damages and invades the other healthy cells of the body which is extremely difficult to treat successfully. Gradually the uncontrolled growth of colon cancer cells leads to the shutting down of the system functioning, eventually leading to death.
Quite often colon cancer symptoms appear after the cancer has begun to spread. Symptoms such as inflammatory or irritable bowels syndrome, infections, hemorrhoids, may be a result of some other illness altogether. Colon cancer symptoms may vary depending upon the size of the tumor and its location in the large intestine. Here are a few colon cancer symptoms that are most commonly found:
Weakness or fatigue is one of the early colon cancer symptoms. Feeling exhausted and easily tired while doing simple chores for reasons unknown could also be a sign for other related illnesses.
- Weight loss
Abnormal weight loss is one of the early colon cancer symptoms. Loss of appetite, persistent nausea, and vomiting indicate other colon cancer symptoms that often go unnoticed.
Anemia describes an unexplained decrease in the level of iron in the body. It is also one of the colon cancer symptoms.
- Pain in the abdomen
Colon cancer symptoms also include uncontrollable pain in the abdomen area. This is a result of the tumor that is obstructing the bowel after growing in the colon. Another symptom includes an unexplained increase in the size of the belly (bloating) without any weight gain.
- Change in the passage of stool
While recording colon cancer symptoms, changes in stool are quite peculiar. There’s a distinctive change in the passage of stool that may include constipation, and narrowing of stool (ribbon-like) without reason. Frequency of bowel movement is also affected during colon cancer.
- Bleeding from the Rectum
Colon cancer symptoms include uncontrolled rectal pain and bleeding that is caused when the cancerous tumor has spread around the rectum and damaged the surrounding healthy tissues. Darker colored stools and blood found in stools are prominent colon cancer symptoms.
- Irritable bowel movement
The feeling of incomplete bowel movement, inflammation inside the rectum, and lack of relief after passing stools are common colon cancer symptoms. Bowel movement is also affected as a result of diarrhea, constipation, etc. that results increased frequency of bowel movement.
Colon cancer symptoms may be minute or sometimes even absent in the earlier stages. However, the degree of severity increases as the disease begins to progress within the body. It is sad to know that, unfortunately, in most cases, colon cancer symptoms only present themselves once they have already passed the first stage, and hence intensive care and timely screening is highly recommended for the elderly who have been diagnosed with this disease. Undergoing a complete physical examination along with divulging medical history of the individual is important during primary diagnosis. Treatment of colon cancer can be done through surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. However, the treatment method used depends on where the tumor has grown and how far it has spread to the other healthy tissues. If the disease is diagnosed at an earlier stage, there are better chances of it being treated successfully.