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Common Symptoms of Colon Cancer for Patients in NJ, CT, MD, and the Washington, D.C., Area

Colon cancer continues to be one of the most common cancer types diagnosed in men and women in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates there will be 106,970 new cases of colon cancer this year alone (2023). Symptoms of the disease often vary from one person to the next. Some patients experience no symptoms or very minimal symptoms, while others may experience the full brunt of colon cancer symptoms.

Knowing and understanding the various symptoms of colon cancer is crucial, as early detection offers the greatest chance of successful treatment.

Physician holding up blue ribbon in support of colon cancer awareness, with a model of a colon on a table

The board-certified medical oncologists of Regional Cancer Care Associates (RCCA) are experts in treating patients with colon cancer. Not only do they provide people in New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, and the Washington, D.C., area with innovative services, they also strive to educate patients on their specific conditions. This article explores common symptoms of colon cancer and risk factors for the disease.

What Is Colon Cancer?

Colon cancer is a disease in which cells in the colon mutate and grow out of control. The cancer usually develops from growths, or polyps, in the lining of the colon, which is also known as the large intestine or large bowel. The function of this tube-like organ is to remove water and some nutrients and electrolytes from partially digested food.

Cancer of the colon starts in the innermost layer of the tube’s lining and can grow outward, affecting the blood vessels or lymph vessels. Over time, the cancer can spread, or metastasize, to lymph nodes and other organs in the body.

Researchers have identified several risk factors for the disease, including many that people have control over, including:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Not being physically active
  • Smoking
  • Poor diet
  • High alcohol consumption

Risks factors that cannot be changed include:

  • Increasing age
  • Family history of colon cancer
  • Having an inherited syndrome
  • Racial and ethnic background
  • Personal history of inflammatory bowel disease
  • Having a history of colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer

Common Symptoms of Colon Cancer

While some individuals, such as those over the age of 50 and those who have a family history of colon cancer, are at a higher risk of developing the disease, anyone can be diagnosed with colon cancer, even people who are considered low-risk. As a result, everyone needs to be aware of the symptoms of colon cancer. Common symptoms include:

Subtle Changes in Bowel Habits         

Given the location of the cancer, one of the most common side effects of colon cancer is a change in bowel habits. Many people with colon cancer report experiencing increased frequency and urgency of bowel movements. Additionally, persistent and unexplained diarrhea and constipation also are common signs.

A change in the appearance of bowel movements also can be a cause for concern, such as stools that consistently are narrower and thinner than in the past. Furthermore, bowel movements should bring feelings of relief, but if they do not, it could be indicative of an underlying issue. Individuals who experience a persistent change in bowel habits or movements should consult their healthcare provider.

Gastrointestinal Issues and Discomfort

Individuals who have colon cancer may experience frequent gas pains, bloating, fullness, cramps, or other abdominal discomfort.

Rectal Bleeding and Blood in the Stool

One of the main symptoms that prompts people to seek medical attention is evidence of blood in the stool. Blood can make stools look dark brown or black. Rectal bleeding with bright red blood should be evaluated, as well.

Unexplained Weight Loss and Fatigue

Loss of a significant amount of weight not coinciding with changes to diet or exercise is a cause for concern. In addition, an overwhelming and constant feeling of fatigue can indicate problems with the colon. Many colon cancer patients report feeling extremely tired all the time. They tend to attribute fatigue to stress or other issues, but it could be a sign of colon cancer.

Iron Deficiency Anemia

Iron deficiency anemia (IDA) can develop from several causes, ranging from pregnancy and diet to colon cancer. Symptoms of IDA can include shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, and loss of energy, among other signs. Physicians can identify IDA through blood work.

Many of the symptoms listed above can result from a wide variety of health issues, which is why prompt medical evaluation to determine and address their underlying cause is important.

Further, many cases of colon cancer do not cause symptoms until their advanced stages, which is why regular screenings for colon cancer are so important, especially for those considered to be at high risk for the disease. Early detection of colon cancer through screening can enable access to several viable treatment options and improve chances of survival.

Trust the Colon Cancer Care Specialists at RCCA

Being aware of the various symptoms of colon cancer plays an important role in detecting the disease early. Early detection and prompt treatment are the best lines of defense against colon cancer.

Patients diagnosed with colon cancer can receive the care they need at Regional Cancer Care Associates. Serving patients in New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, and the Washington, D.C., area, the board-certified oncologists of RCCA provide comprehensive and compassionate care for a wide range of cancers and blood disorders. Contact Regional Cancer Care Associates for more information regarding colon cancer treatment options, or schedule an appointment at a nearby RCCA location.

we are here for you

For more information or to schedule an appointment,
call 844-346-7222. You can also schedule an appointment by calling the RCCA location nearest you.

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