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What Are the Signs of Colon Cancer?

What Are the Signs of Colon Cancer?

Every year in the United States, about 54,210 new colon cancer cases are diagnosed in men and another 52,380 in women. Although the overall incidence of colon cancer is decreasing by about 1% a year, it’s actually increased by 1-2% a year in women and men under age 50 since the 1990s.

The shock of young celebrities who’ve either died from the disease — as actor Chadwick Boseman (i.e., “Black Panther”) did in 2020, at age 43 — or have conquered it, like MLB player Darryl Strawberry, has brought the disease to public consciousness. Their deaths and struggles also highlight the need for colonoscopy screenings.

Colon cancer is curable if caught early enough. In addition to adhering to recommended guidelines for regular colon cancer screening starting at age 45 (or younger, if you're at higher risk), knowing the signs of colon cancer may save your life.

At Colon and Rectal Surgeons of Greater Hartford, our colorectal experts and surgeons offer colonoscopies at our various convenient locations. We believe so strongly in the value of colonoscopy that we offer colonoscopy clinics on Saturdays as well as during the week.

Between your colonoscopies, pay attention to the signs and signals your body sends you. Let us know right away if you experience any of the following signs of colon cancer.

Blood in your stool

Blood in your stool is never a good sign. If you notice blood in the toilet, on the stool itself, or on your toilet paper, let us know. While blood in the stool can be caused by a variety of conditions, including ulcerative colitis, it’s also a key sign of colon cancer.

Even if you can’t see the blood, if your stool has become much darker or has developed a “tarry” texture, call us. Dark brown or black feces is often caused by internal bleeding. 

Change in bowel habits

Although it can be normal to have occasional constipation or diarrhea, if you have changes to your bowel movements that last longer than a day or two, give us a call. 

The tumors in colon cancer may obstruct your rectum. As a result, your stool may be abnormally skinny. Or, you may feel that you still need to have a bowel movement, even after you’ve completely evacuated your bowels.

Unexplained fatigue

If you have bleeding in your intestines or rectum, you may develop a condition called anemia, which is the result of not enough iron to build red blood cells. Anemia leaves you feeling tired and listless. You may even look pale.

If you’ve been sleeping your normal number of hours, but still feel groggy, let us know. Particularly if fatigue is accompanied by bowel symptoms, you could have colorectal cancer or another digestive disease.

Cramping or pain

Women may have cramping, pain, and changes in bowel habits around the time of their periods. But if pain and cramps persist, or if you’re a man with cramps and pain, you deserve to know why.

As with the other signs of colon cancer, cramping and pain are associated with a number of other conditions. That’s why a thorough evaluation and diagnosis is essential to getting you the relief and treatment you need.

Unintended weight loss

When the pounds come off without you trying or intending to take them off, your body may be diverting energy to fight a disease. Also, cancer cells consume more energy than healthy cells do.

In fact, unintended weight loss is the symptom that many people with cancer notice first. Weight loss due to cancer is called “cachexia” and is not a healthy type of weight loss at all. In addition to losing fat, you lose the skeletal muscle you need to stay strong.

Do you suspect you have the signs of colon cancer? To book your colonoscopy, or to have your symptoms evaluated, schedule an appointment online today, or call us at the office nearest you (Bloomfield, South Windsor, or Plainville, Connecticut).

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