Symptoms and Signs of Colon Cancer (Bowel Cancer)

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 9/2/2020

Doctor's Notes on Colon Cancer (Bowel Cancer)

Colon cancer is cancer that arises in the lining cells of the large intestine (colon). The exact cause of colon cancer is not completely understood, but most colon cancers are believed to arise from polyps, or small outgrowths in the lining of the colon. Factors that increase a person's risk of developing colon cancer include increasing age, African-American race, high fat intake, a family history of colorectal cancer and polyps, the presence of polyps in the large intestine, and having inflammatory bowel disease. There are four stages of colon cancer. Stage IV (metastatic) colon cancers have spread, or metastasized, to distant organs or lymph nodes far from the original tumor.

Signs and symptoms of colon cancer depend on the extent to which the tumor has spread at the time of diagnosis (its stage). Some early cancers may not cause any symptoms. Other colon cancers may cause associated symptoms including blood in the stool, narrow stools, diarrhea or constipation, weight loss, fatigue, and abdominal pain.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.