Font Size
A
A
A

Colon Cancer (cont.)

What Are Colon Cancer Symptoms and Signs?

Symptoms of colon cancer may not be present or be minimal and overlooked until it becomes more severe. Cancer screening tests for colon cancer thus are important in individuals 50 and older. Cancer of the colon and rectum can exhibit itself in several ways. If you have any of these symptoms, seek immediate medical help. You may notice bleeding from your rectum or blood mixed with your stool. It usually, but not always, can be detected through a fecal occult (hidden) blood test, in which samples of stool are submitted to a lab for detection of blood.

  • People commonly attribute all rectal bleeding to hemorrhoids, thus preventing early diagnosis owing to lack of concern over "bleeding hemorrhoids." New onset of bright red blood in the stool always deserves an evaluation. Blood in the stool may be less evident, and is sometimes invisible, or causes a black or tarry stool.
  • Rectal bleeding may be hidden and chronic and may only show up as an iron deficiency anemia.
  • It may be associated with fatigue and pale skin due to the anemia.
  • Changes in bowel movement frequency
  • It usually, but not always, can be detected through a fecal occult (hidden) blood test, in which samples of stool are submitted to a lab for detection of blood.
  • If the tumor gets large enough, it may completely or partially block your colon. You may notice the following symptoms of bowel obstruction:
    • Abdominal distension: Your belly sticks out more than it did before without weight gain.
    • Abdominal pain: This is rare in colon cancer. One cause is tearing (perforation) of the bowel. Leaking of bowel contents into the pelvis can cause inflammation (peritonitis) and infection.
    • Unexplained, persistent nausea or vomiting
    • Unexplained weight loss
    • Change in frequency or character of stool (bowel movements)
    • Small-caliber (narrow) or ribbon-like stools
    • Constipation
    • Sensation of incomplete evacuation after a bowel movement
    • Rectal pain: Pain rarely occurs with colon cancer and usually indicates a bulky tumor in the rectum that may invade surrounding tissue after moving through the colon's submucosa.

Studies suggest that the average duration of symptoms (from onset to diagnosis) is 14 weeks.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/13/2017

Must Read Articles Related to Colon Cancer

Barium Enema
Barium Enema A barium enema is a diagnostic test that us...learn more >>
18 Cancer Symptoms
Cancer Symptoms Most symptoms and signs of canc...learn more >>
Cancer: What You Need to Know
Cancer: What You Need to Know Cancer is a common and deadly disease, and it's surrounded by myths. There are certain basics a patient needs to know when they're confronted with a learn more >>

Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Colon Cancer:

Colon Cancer - Diagnosis

How was the diagnosis of your colon cancer established?

Colon Cancer - Signs and Symptoms

What signs and symptoms did you experience with your colon cancer?


Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Colon Cancer, Adenocarcinoma »

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women in the United States.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


Medical Dictionary