Colon Cancer - Symptoms

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What are the symptoms of colon cancer?

Symptoms of colorectal cancer are numerous and nonspecific. They include fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, change in bowel habits, narrow stools, diarrhea or constipation, red or dark blood in stool, weight loss, abdominal pain, cramps, or bloating. Other conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (spastic colon), ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, diverticulosis, and peptic ulcer disease can have symptoms that mimic colorectal cancer. For more information on these conditions, please read the following articles: Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn's Disease, Diverticulosis, and Peptic Ulcer Disease.

Colorectal cancer can be present for several years before symptoms develop. Symptoms vary according to where in the large intestine the tumor is located. The right colon is spacious, and cancers of the right colon can grow to large sizes before they cause any abdominal symptoms. Typically, right-sided cancers cause iron deficiency anemia due to the slow loss of blood over a long period of time. Iron deficiency anemia causes fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath. The left colon is narrower than the right colon. Therefore, cancers of the left colon are more likely to cause partial or complete bowel obstruction. Cancers causing partial bowel obstruction can cause symptoms of constipation, narrowed stool, diarrhea, abdominal pains, cramps, and bloating. Bright red blood in the stool may also indicate a growth near the end of the left colon or rectum.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: PADAKI, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: October 21

I was diagnosed November 11, 2010 (47 years old at the time) with stage IV colon/rectal cancer. I had 7 surgeries, bag installed and then taken off, several feet/inches colon removed, 6 plus weeks radiation, 8 to 12 weeks chemotherapy twice and it has been hard. I continue to struggle with immense pain, uncontrolled bowel and am exhausted all the time. I am told cancer is not growing but shows some activity so not sure what that means. I am fighting but honestly wish I would have gone to the doctors sooner back when I had all the stomach pain and blood in stool (which my general physician said was irritable bowel syndrome or ulcer). Listen to your body and seek the right doctors to listen to you.

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Comment from: biddy, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: December 16

I had a change in bowel movements. I noticed some small round fecal matter, but no blood visible. After another month or so went by I experienced sporadic (once a week at night) pain in my stomach area, rolling pain like labor pains that came and went with regularity. By this time I had been referred to a gynecologist physician. Ultra sound showed no abnormalities. This doctor suggested I go see a gastric surgeon. I only saw a physician's assistant at this office, however she gave me a take home fecal test which I returned to be told it had blood in it. She suggested I have a colonoscopy. Before I had the colonoscopy I experienced a particularly nasty night of pain and was waiting outside before the doctor's office opened. I was sent immediately for a CAT scan and as I got home, the phone was ringing with the news that a mass in the descending colon had been found. I had the colonoscopy a week or so later and the surgeon could not get the mass so surgery was scheduled two weeks later. Tumor was removed via keyhole surgery, 39 lymph nodes removed, all negative and was staged as 2B. I was offered adjuvant therapy but declined. I hope that was not a mistake on my part. That was in March 2014. I am being followed by surgeon and oncologist on an interval basis. Lesson, listen to your body, do not ignore pain or change in bowel habits and insist on a colonoscopy. It is easy, painless and could save your life; absolutely. A polyp in time saves you from cancer!

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