Just two days ago, the media was awash with the loss of one of the all-time greatest and most promising actors, Chadwick Boseman, to colon cancer. The effects are still reeling in and as hard as it is to swallow, it’s a sad and harsh reminder that colon cancer is a part of us. This type of cancer affects the lower part of the digestive tract responsible for gathering waste- normally the last six inches of the large intestines. Statistics put the figure at a whopping 112,000 diagnoses annually. Despite being preventable in its early stages, it’s among the leading cancers that take the cake when it comes to fatalities. In case you are wondering what the signs and symptoms of colon cancer are, you are in the right place. This article dissects the issue and lays out the bare facts. Indulge.
As unbelievable as it may sound, constipation comes across as a key sign and symptom of colon cancer. A major challenge with colorectal cancer is that its signs and symptoms only appear at the later stages. Constipation comes across as one of the “less-serious” serious signs. We have all suffered constipation at a point in our lives, so why would we take it seriously? Lack of water, exercise, and foods with lots of fiber bring about constipation, which comes across as modifiable lifestyle factors. However, doctors say that frequent constipation could result from malignant growth that could alter the bowel movements by blocking or narrowing the bowels. A complete blockage leads to bowel obstruction.
Doctors opine that people usually misinterpret diarrhea as a normal occurrence, either due to food poisoning or introducing a foreign substance into the body. This may be true, but then again, they advise that they should pop in for a colonoscopy if it persists for more than two days. Diarrhea and constipation are common signs and symptoms of colon cancer that doctors urge people to look out for. The growth of malignant tissues leads to involuntary bowel movements leading to diarrhea.
3. Bloody Stool
You did a good job cutting down on pepper due to your hemorrhoids or probably reduced your stress levels due to peptic ulcers. However, did you ever consider that a bloody stool could be a precursor or an indicator of colorectal cancer? The chances are that you’d wish away or steer clear from a doctor’s appointment once you spot blood stains in your stool. DON’T! On the contrary, seeking medical help could make the difference between life and death, according to the American Cancer Society. Further, they insist that frequent bowel urges (Tenesmus) that are not relieved by going to the loo are clear indicators of an impending or underlying condition.
Many contributory factors may lead to blood-stained stool, such as infections or peptic ulcers. Nevertheless, one should seek immediate medical attention upon noticing such an occurrence. Doctors advise that an annual colorectal screening or fecal occult test should be enough to keep colon cancer at bay.
4. Abdominal Pains/ Discomfort
At this point, it’s all too clear now that the above points are somehow intertwined. Colon cancer causes a shift in bowel movements leading to a combination of the above factors. It’s a no-brainer that abdominal pains should also follow since bowel movement is restricted, leading to either cramp or bloating. In cases where colon cancer has advanced, patients may experience tenderness when touched in the lower abdomen, followed by excruciating pain. There’s a high probability that an abdominal mass may be detected when touching or examining the abdomen. It is advisable to seek immediate medical attention in such cases and particularly when in pain.
Colorectal cancer patients also describe discomfort associated with bloating despite not having even a single bite of food. Doctors at the American Cancer Society intimate that almost 99% of the cases are associated with pelvic pains, belching and gas problems, and stomach cramps. Such discomfort always makes colon cancer diagnosis problematic since a myriad of factors can be associated with such.
Fatigue is typically brought about by the lack of enough oxygen reaching the body tissues. A reduced number of healthy red blood cells required to transport oxygen to maintain optimal bodily function often leads to weakness. In this regard, fatigue comes across as one of the major signs and symptoms of colon cancer. Blood-stained stool leads to reduced healthy red blood cells through chronic blood loss leading to iron-deficiency anemia.
Closely intertwined with fatigue is pallor, a condition that emanates from reduced levels of rich, oxygenated blood. The skin, palms, soles of your feet, and eyes turn pale due to insufficient oxygen reaching the peripheral tissues. Iron deficiency anemia due to colon cancer in most cases result in such loss of red blood cells through bleeding. Oxygenated blood is essential in maintaining body functionality. Thus, decreased levels lead to pallor, despite the condition one might be suffering from.
7. Rectal Pain
By now, you should be asking yourself pertinent questions if you experience any of the above signs, coupled with rectal pain. Rectal pain is a surefire sign that things aren’t well down below. It could indicate that a malignant tumor is rapidly growing, blocking your waste, and leading to pain. It could also be accompanied by changes in the shape of your stool and bright red bloodstains. In case you experience such symptoms, you must schedule an appointment with your doctor to rule out any possibility of colon cancer.
Colon cancer shouldn’t be a death sentence. With early detection, one can lead a normal, healthy life while adhering to the doctor’s advice. However, you should be in a position to understand when symptoms point to an indication of a potentially serious or underlying problem. With the above symptoms, you should be in a relatively good position to determine your health status and take the appropriate steps. Further, it’s essential to have a colonoscopy once annually, as this is a sure way of detecting the disease early.