The colon is a part of the large intestine and lining of the colon sometimes has growths known as polyps. These growths can either be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). These growths that are present in the colon deprive normal tissues of nutrition and oxygen and can also spread to the lymph nodes of the area and to distant other organs. Most cases of colon cancer start as benign polyps and can later turn out to be cancerous. The few small polyps may be present and this might cause a few symptoms to show. For this reason, most doctors advise people to get screened regularly so that colon cancer can be detected at its earliest stage. Doctors also recommend screening for colon cancer regularly because if the polyps are identified early, they can be removed before they turn cancerous.
What are the symptoms of colon cancer?
Most people who have colon cancer at the early stages show no symptoms. When the symptoms show, they will vary based on the size of the tumor, the location and how far the cancer has spread. The most common symptoms of colon cancer are:
- Easy fatigability
- Change in bowel movements like constipation or diarrhea
- Blood in stools which may appear like black tarry stools or bright red colour
- Pain abdomen
- Weight loss
- Persistent abdominal discomfort like cramps or gas
- A bowel movement that does not let one feel relieved
- Rectal bleeding which is bright red
Colon cancers can often bleed into the digestive tract and blood may be present in the stool which makes it look dark but in most cases, the stool will look normal. With time, the blood loss can build up and can lead to a low blood count which can make the person anemic.
Most of these symptoms can also appear with conditions other than colon cancer like haemorrhoids, an infection or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Even if symptoms show with these conditions show, they should not be neglected and should be brought to the notice of a doctor.