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: Tommyjane, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: October 18

I thought I was going through menopause because I was having problems with multiple periods. I had four blood transfusions. Then I developed an ulcer with severe knifing abdominal pain and was experiencing constipation. Finally, blood showed up in one of my bowel movements. I was too weak to call my doctor. I had always checked my stools because I'm from a family of three generations of colon cancer survivors. I left the stool in the toilet overnight and the blood diffused into the water. That's when I called my doctor.AI was diagnosed with high stage 2a cancer that had not metastasized. I was told the cancer had been in me for about a year. I had two large tumors located on both sides of the transverse and lost my entire large colon, but I have no colostomy bag. I wasn't heavy to begin with, I left the hospital at 98 lbs. I'm here today five years later and back to work, thanks to a team of doctors from Loma Linda University.

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Comment from: Marilyn, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: December 16

For a year and a half I felt tired all the time, and had major dizzy spells. My doctor told me I was anemic and to take iron pills. When I went to the Red Cross Bloodmobile to donate blood, they told me I was very anemic and to go directly to my doctor. This time she scheduled me for a colonoscopy, and I was found to have stage 4 colon cancer. I had surgery and 9 months of Folfiri.

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