There may be no symptoms in the early stages of colon cancer. When symptoms appear, they'll likely vary, depending on the cancer's size and location in the large intestine. In some cases, symptoms may result from a condition other than cancer, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn's disease, and sometimes diverticulosis or diverticulitis (conditions in which pouches form in the colon wall, weakening it and causing inflammation). Like colorectal cancer, these conditions are treatable.
Signs and symptoms to be aware of include a change in bowel habits including: diarrhea, constipation, a change in the consistency of the stool for more than a couple of weeks, narrow stools, rectal bleeding or blood in the stool, persistent abdominal discomfort such as cramps, gas or pain, abdominal pain with a bowel movement, a feeling that the bowel is not emptying completely, and/or an unexplained weight loss.
Blood in the stool may be a sign of cancer, but it can also indicate other conditions. Bright red blood on bathroom tissue or in the toilet may come from hemorrhoids or minor tears (fissures) in the anus, or from certain foods such as beets, spinach, red cabbage, or food dyes. Iron supplements and some anti-diarrheal medications may make stools appear black.
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