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Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States. The disease is also called bowel, colon, or rectal cancer. Approximately one in 22 people will develop this type of cancer during their lives. It is important to understand the symptoms of colorectal cancer in order to receive prompt diagnosis and treatment, for the best possible prognosis.

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Constipation

Now and then, we all experience difficulty excreting stool. One of the most critical symptoms of colon cancer is constipation which lasts longer than four weeks. Constipation can make you feel full, but at the same time, it's difficult to have a bowel movement. If you experience constipation on a frequent basis, you may have colorectal cancer. Blocked bowels can occur for many reasons. If your colon and intestines become obstructed, it may be difficult to have a bowel movement. Constipation may occur if you don't drink enough water. If you find yourself constipated for more than a month, report it to your doctor to make a rapid diagnosis.

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Diarrhea

Diarrhea is another warning sign of colon cancer. Furthermore, diarrhea is especially telling because it is usually one of the first indications that there's something wrong with your colon. If you experience diarrhea for more than a few weeks, you should consult your doctor. Colon cancer causes diarrhea because the tumor obstructs the bowel, altering the digestive process. Besides diarrhea, you may also experience frequent gas, pain in the abdomen, as well as vomiting. More than 90 percent of patients with colorectal cancer have a combination of symptoms like diarrhea, abdominal pain, and blood in the stool. It's important to consume plenty of water to stay hydrated. Diarrhea can cause dehydration very fast.

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Bloody Stools

If you have bloody stools, you may be experiencing one of the most severe symptoms associated with colon cancer. Bloody stools occur because of hemorrhoids that cause bleeding during a bowel movement. These anal fissures can happen while straining to use the bathroom, but don't necessarily mean you've got colon cancer. You may notice blood on the toilet paper after wiping, which generally appears bright red. If you see a dark red or black blood in the stool, it can be a sign of stomach ulcers, and in rare cases, colon cancer. Regardless of the cause, it's important to consult your doctor to rule out any serious ailment. In most cases, bloody stools are a regular part of being human.

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Feeling of Fullness

Many people who develop colon cancer report a feeling of fullness, with a need to use the bathroom. However, if no stool is passed, this is a worrying sign. Sometimes, the need to have a bowel movement can persist throughout the day, making it an uncomfortable symptom to tolerate. This occurs when a tumor blocks the colon and impedes you from having a full bowel movement. If you notice a constant urge to go to the bathroom with no relief, it is a good idea to consult your doctor. It's worth remembering that occasionally the human body will experience constipation, diarrhea, and a feeling of fullness without the symptoms being warning signs of cancer. However, if these symptoms continue for several weeks, it's time to schedule an appointment with your physician.

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Narrow Stools

Another warning sign of colon cancer is thin stools. Even though many things can cause thin stools, such as lack of fiber of water intake, colon cancer remains one of the top causes of narrow stools. When a tumor appears in the left side of the colon, it may often obstruct the passageway which consequently leads to narrow stools. If your stools stay pencil thin for a long time, despite improvements in diet or exercise, it is a good idea to schedule an appointment with your doctor. Another cause of narrow stools includes Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Crohn's Disease.

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Abdominal Pain

Abdominal pain is a classic symptom of colon cancer. If you feel pain in your lower abdomen, you may have colon cancer. Your stomach may also be tender to the touch. The cause of abdominal pain occurs when a tumor obstructs the natural function of the organs. It's usually found in the much later stages of colon cancer after the tumor has grown considerably in size. As a result, blood flow can also be restricted. If you experience persistent pain, immediately contact your doctor.

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Anemia

When you have colon cancer, you are likely to experience anemia. Anemia is the medical term that describes a low red blood cell count in the body. Red blood cells contain hemoglobin, a substance that carries oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. If you have anemia, you are likely to have pale skin or shortness of breath, amongst other symptoms. A lack of iron-rich foods in your diet, such as meat, beans, or dark, leafy greens are the most common causes of anemia. If you experience any symptoms related to this condition, you should get a blood test to rule out cancer or any other ailment.

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Weight Loss

Cancer can make you lose your appetite, which in turn leads to weight loss. Weight loss isn't always the result of illness. However, if you're older than 50 and unexpectedly lose weight, you might have colon cancer. Unexpected and unintentional weight loss is an indicator the body is struggling internally. Other cancers, such as rectal and stomach cancer can also lead to weight loss. Another way cancer causes weight loss is by modifying your rate of metabolism. This symptom makes it more difficult for your body to break down food. Weight loss is a characteristic of late-stage cancer, even though it can appear at any point.

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Gas

It is normal to have gas once in a while, especially after eating greasy or processed foods. However, when gas is present with other symptoms, it's a cause for concern and should be reported to your doctor for further evaluation. When a tumor appears in the colon, it may obstruct food and other substances from moving on in the digestive system. A tumor can cause a build-up of gas and other materials. These symptoms may lead to bloating and gas. When it comes to colon cancer and gas, the evolution is generally progressive, meaning that it usually increases over time.

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Fatigue

One of the telltale symptoms of colon cancer is fatigue. Fatigue means being exhausted continuously, even after resting. Weakness and overall malaise are likely to accompany fatigue. You might feel unusually tired after performing a physically or mentally demanding activity such as going for a hike or reading a long book. It's important to note that fatigue doesn't get better with rest. Fatigue is caused by anemia and lower levels of oxygen in the blood. It's worth remembering that there are many causes behind fatigue and cancer is only one of them. It's common to experience fatigue and a lack of enthusiasm intermittently throughout your life, but when the feeling of tiredness persists without a logical cause, it's a warning sign that should be heeded without delay.

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Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.