Symptoms and Signs of Colon Cancer vs. Ulcerative Colitis (UC)

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 5/3/2019

Doctor's Notes on Colon Cancer vs. Ulcerative Colitis (UC)

Colon cancer is composed of unregulated abnormal colon cells that may spread to other organs in the body (metastasize), while ulcerative colitis (UC) is acute or chronic inflammation of the membrane that lines the colon. Colon cancer and ulcerative colitis may share the following signs and symptoms:

  • frequent loose stools sometimes with blood,
  • abdominal discomfort or pain, fatigue,
  • lethargy,
  • feel urgent need to move bowels and
  • anemia.

Colon cancer may cause thin or ribbon-like stools or in some individuals, bowel obstruction while these symptoms are usually absent in ulcerative colitis. Ulcerative colitis does not spread to other areas of the body; it is not cancer.

Colon Cancer and Ulcerative Colitis Causes

  • The cause of colon cancer and ulcerative colitis is unknown, but they share risk factors of genetic and/or family history of the diseases and smoking.
  • Colon cancers usually arise from adenomatous polyps in the colon.
  • Ulcerative colitis does not arise from polyps. However, ulcerative colitis is a risk factor for colon cancer.

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