Colon Cancer Awareness Month is observed in March. Studies found that more adults in their 20s and 30s are being diagnosed with the disease, despite its association with older people. It is one of the most lethal cancers that sends loud warning signs to let you know something is wrong.
Despite this, doctors say it can be uncomfortable for patients to discuss the symptoms.
Dr. Jennifer Inra, a gastroenterologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said, “I think people may be hesitant to talk about that part of their body.”
“There is awareness in the public, but not enough people are being screened… people are sometimes nervous about the screening tests.”
The CDC reports that colon cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in the U.S. and the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths among American men and women.
As screening has helped lower the overall number of cases, the obesity epidemic may be contributing to the increase in cases among young adults.
Here are 6 Colon Cancer Symptoms you should never ignore:
1. Colon Cancer Symptom – Bleeding
Rectal bleeding is probably the most common warning sign, said Dr. Alfred Neugut, a medical oncologist and cancer epidemiologist at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. Tell your doctor if you notice blood on the toilet paper, in the toilet bowl, or in your stool. You may notice bright red or dark maroon blood.
Inra noted that there would generally be more bleeding than from hemorrhoids or cuts in the area.
It is important to look at your stool because many people don’t. Seeing what is happening is important,” she said.
“Rectal bleeding is something people can overlook for very long periods of time,” Neugut said. “It can happen intermittently, so you might have it one day, and then it goes away for a few weeks, and then you get it again. So in-between, you think you are OK.” But you may not be.
2. Colon Cancer Symptom – Iron-deficiency anemia
The iron that is lost in your body when colon cancer tumors bleed can cause anemia, which is caused by the lack of red blood cells, according to Inra. People may not be aware that they are losing blood, but a routine blood test indicates anemia.
3. Colon Cancer Symptom – Abdominal pain
The type of abdominal discomfort you experience – ranging from dull to sharp – depends on what’s happening. A tumor may cause a blockage or a tear, causing cramps and other pain.
According to Inra, a sharp, extremely tender abdomen was a sign that there had been a perforation.
You may feel nausea, vomiting, and abdominal distention as well as pain if things can’t pass through.
4. Colon Cancer Symptom – Narrow stools
When your stool is thinner than normal, this could indicate a tumor in the colon, Inra said. You should also watch out for other changes in your bowel habits, such as constipation.
5. Colon Cancer Symptom – An unproductive urge to have a bowel movement
The problem of tenesmus occurs when you feel you need to empty your bowels, but when you try, no stool comes out. The problem can be caused by a tumor in your rectum, according to Inra.
6. Colon Cancer Symptom – Unexplained weight loss
In general, it is always wise to consider colon cancer or any cancer for that matter. You may be eating enough, but cancer can alter the way your body processes food, preventing you from absorbing all the nutrients.