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  • Writer's pictureThe Oncologist

Colon Cancer Symptoms

Updated: Apr 30, 2019

Colon Cancer Symptoms

Many cases of colorectal cancer have no symptoms or warning signs until the cancer has advanced. However, the following symptoms may indicate colon cancer. Of course, other conditions can cause the same symptoms, such as hemorrhoids, IBD, infection, etc., so a person should consult a doctor if they experience any of the following symptoms.

Abdominal pain

Almost everyone experiences abdominal pain, bloating or cramps at some point in their life. Most of the time it is not caused by a serious condition, and the severity of your pain does not necessarily reflect the seriousness of the condition causing the pain. However, if you experience any amount of abdominal pain that is unfamiliar, you should seek medical guidance. They may have a simple solution to your pain, or further testing to diagnose a more serious cause may be recommended. Be sure to listen to your body and recognize when something doesn’t feel quite right.

Changes in Bowel Habits

Every now and then, we all experience changes in our bowels. We may experience diarrhea or constipation due to something we ate or due to being sick with something like the flu. But changes in bowel habits that continue for long may indicate a more serious condition. If you experience diarrhea or constipation that lasts for more than a few weeks, you need to seek medical attention. The doctor will be able to examine you and determine the cause.

Another change in bowel habits that may indicate colon cancer is having narrower than normal stools or other changes in the appearance of your stool. If your stool looks pencil-thin or looks different for more than a few weeks, you need to consult with your doctor.

Bloody Stool

Anal bleeding is a serious subject, no matter the cause. Having a doctor take a closer assessment at your symptoms can determine whether the cause is a condition like hemorrhoids or if it is something more serious, like colon cancer, and decide on the right course of treatment. If you notice either bright red or very dark blood in your stool, along with severe pain, you need to seek medical attention urgently. Your doctor will be able to examine you and will most likely suggest a colonoscopy to check for polyps or tumors.


Vomiting can be caused by a number of normal occurrences: motion sickness, a virus or unpleasant sights or smells. But if nausea and vomiting are accompanied with other symptoms such as constipation or pain, colon cancer could be the cause. When vomiting is a symptom of colon cancer, it is usually because a tumor is causing a bowel obstruction. Depending on the severity of the blockage, solids, liquids and even gas may be prevented from passing through the colon. This can lead to painful stomach cramps and constipation. Either of these symptoms can result in nausea and vomiting.

Unexplained Weight Loss

A drop in your weight is usually celebrated, but if you don’t have an explanation for a significant amount of weight loss, that could be a little scary. Unexplained weight loss due to colon cancer may not occur until the cancer is in its advanced stages. One of the other symptoms of colon cancer is diarrhea that lasts for more than a few days. Diarrhea can also cause weight loss. Abdominal pain is another symptom of colon cancer that may prevent you from eating normally. If you have lost a significant amount of weight accompanied with these symptoms, you need to talk to your doctor immediately to determine the cause.

Unexplained Anemia

Anemia refers to a lowering of red blood cell count. In terms of colon cancer, anemia may be caused by a microscopic amount of chronic blood loss in the stool. In this case, iron is lost with the red blood cells and can slowly deplete the total body stores of iron. The production of new red blood cells is reduced and eventually the total red blood cell count decreases causing anemia. Anemia can also cause fatigue because the red blood cells are responsible for delivering oxygen to the body tissues. In women, an iron deficiency is commonly seen during menstruation. However, for men, iron deficiency is uncommon and needs to be further investigated by a physician.

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