Colon cancer does not initially cause noticeable symptoms, and a malignant tumor in your bowels grows slowly. When there are signs of colon cancer, they’re often unspecific. This is one of the reasons colon cancer is sometimes recognized too late.
Colon cancer usually starts from the intestinal mucosa cells, which initially form benign growths, intestinal polyps. For many people, these polyps remain harmless throughout their lives. However, they can also change and develop into colon cancer. This process takes many years.
Dr. Ven Kottapalli, MD, CNSP, and the talented crew at GI Physicians Inc. in Lima, Ohio, are highly skilled in making your colon cancer screening as comfortable and convenient as possible. Getting a colonoscopy as recommended allows your gastroenterologist to look for polyps and catch problems before they become serious.
Colon cancer symptoms
Without routine screening, colon cancer usually goes undetected for a long time. Complaints only arise when a tumor has reached a certain size. If the tumor has already spread to your other organs, further symptoms may appear.
Changed or accidental bowel movements
Alternating constipation and diarrhea is a warning sign of colon cancer because the tumor narrows the bowel. Stool builds up in front of the tumor and is then liquefied by bacterial decomposition and expelled as diarrhea.
Muscle tension of the anal sphincter is diminished by deep-seated colon cancer that affects the muscle and disrupts its function. This can lead to accidents when stool is inadvertently excreted.
Difference in stool appearance or blood in your stool
Sometimes colon cancer changes stool shape, and your bowel movements appear very thin. If you're over 40 and you notice any change in bowel habits that lasts longer than three weeks, call GI Physicians for a colon cancer screening.
Blood in your stool is not a specific sign of colon cancer. Most of the time, blood residue in the stool or on toilet paper is due to hemorrhoids. Various intestinal infections or chronic intestinal inflammation can also cause bloody stools. Nevertheless, it’s important to have the problem checked out.
A malignant tumor bleeds easily. In colon cancer, this blood is excreted with the stool. If the cancer is in the rectum, the blood in the stool often appears bright red. If the tumor grows closer to the beginning of the colon, it appears dark red.
Colon cancer can also cause fever and fatigue, leading to weakness and lethargy.
Unwanted weight loss is a sign of advanced-stage colon cancer. Colon cancer reduces your energy from the body, causing weight loss even if you continue to eat as usual.
Especially in advanced colon cancer, patients may experience anemia because the malignant tumor often bleeds. Anemia manifests as pale skin, poor performance, tiredness, and shortness of breath in severe cases.
Risk factors for colon cancer
Colon cancer develops when healthy cells change, degenerate, and multiply unchecked. According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is triggered by various risk factors, some of which you can change:
- Age: In general, risk of colon and other types of cancer increases with age.
- Genetic factors: First-degree relatives (parents, children, siblings) of colorectal cancer patients are more likely to develop this type of cancer themselves than other people.
- Diet: Eating too little fiber and a lot of fat and meat — especially red meat and highly processed meat — can increase your risk of colon cancer.
- Alcohol and tobacco use: People who regularly drink too much or who have smoked for many years run the risk of colon cancer.
- Sedentary lifestyle: People who don’t move enough and spend too much time sitting down increase their colon cancer risk.
- Obesity: The risk of colon cancer goes up with a body mass index of 25 and higher.
Not everyone who has family members with colon cancer gets it themselves. The combination of genetic makeup and lifestyle usually triggers colon cancer.
Schedule your screening today
Colon cancer isn’t always the culprit behind your gastrointestinal complaints. Many other gastrointestinal disorders can be to blame and are far less worrying. If you’re over 50 and haven’t had a colon cancer screening in the past 10 years, contact GI Physicians Inc. team by phone or online to schedule an appointment.