Colon cancer is a type of cancer that affects the colon, which is the final part of the digestive system. It is the third most common cancer worldwide and a leading cause of cancer-related deaths.
While colon cancer can develop without any symptoms, there are some digestive symptoms that might indicate colon cancer. In this article, we’ll explore some of the common colon cancer symptoms and what they might mean.
Common Colon Cancer Symptoms
- Changes in bowel movements: Changes in bowel movements, such as diarrhea or constipation, that last for more than a few days may be a sign of colon cancer. This can be accompanied by a feeling of incomplete bowel movements or the need to strain during bowel movements.
- Blood in the stool: Blood in the stool can be a sign of colon cancer, particularly if it is bright red or dark in color. However, blood in the stool can also be caused by other conditions, such as hemorrhoids or anal fissures.
- Abdominal pain or cramping: Abdominal pain or cramping that is persistent or severe may be a sign of colon cancer. This can be accompanied by bloating or a feeling of fullness in the abdomen.
- Unexplained weight loss: Unexplained weight loss can be a sign of colon cancer, particularly if it is accompanied by other symptoms. However, weight loss can also be caused by other conditions, such as thyroid problems or depression.
- Fatigue: Fatigue or weakness that is persistent or severe may be a sign of colon cancer. This can be accompanied by other symptoms, such as abdominal pain or changes in bowel movements.
When to See a Doctor
If you experience any of the above colon cancer symptoms, it is important to see a doctor. While these symptoms can be caused by other conditions, it is important to rule out colon cancer as a possible cause. Your doctor may recommend further testing, such as a colonoscopy, to determine the cause of your symptoms.
It is also important to see a doctor if you have a family history of colon cancer. People with a family history of colon cancer are at a higher risk of developing the condition themselves and may need to begin regular colonoscopy screenings at a younger age.
Preventing Colon Cancer
While some risk factors for colon cancer, such as family history, cannot be changed, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing the condition. Here are some tips for preventing colon cancer:
- Get regular screenings: Regular colonoscopy screenings can help detect colon cancer in its early stages or prevent it from developing in the first place by detecting and removing precancerous polyps.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese can increase your risk of developing colon cancer. Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise can help reduce your risk.
- Eat a healthy diet: Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help reduce your risk of colon cancer. Limiting red meat and processed foods can also help.
- Exercise regularly: Regular exercise can help reduce your risk of colon cancer. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise, such as brisk walking, most days of the week.
- Limit alcohol consumption: Drinking alcohol can increase your risk of colon cancer. Limiting alcohol consumption to no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men can help reduce your risk.
Colon cancer is a serious condition that can be difficult to detect in its early stages. However, by paying attention to digestive symptoms that might indicate colon cancer and seeking medical attention when necessary, you can improve your chances of early detection and treatment.
Regular colonoscopy screenings are an important tool in the prevention and early detection of colon cancer, and there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing the condition.
By maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, limiting alcohol consumption, and following your doctor’s recommendations for colon cancer screenings, you can take steps to protect your health and reduce your risk of colon cancer.