Colorectal cancer is the combination of colon cancer and rectal cancer. When cells in the colon or the rectum start to multiply without control and form tumors in this area, it is called colorectal cancer; cancer cells in the colon is colon cancer and the cancer cells in the rectum is rectal cancer. These tumors at first may not present any signs or symptoms to the person. Early detection is the main factor in the prognosis of colorectal cancer. Detection is from yearly fecal occult blood tests. These tests will show blood in the stool that may not even be visible to the naked eye. Stool blood is a warning sign of colorectal cancer and will be used to do further testing that may include scoping the bowels and GI tract.
Warning Signs of Colorectal Cancer
- Fatigue – Seeming more tired than usual or not having enough energy to do your normal activities.
- Loss of appetite or loss of weight – Unexplained loss of weight or not feeling hungry for days at a time needs to be checked out.
- Stomach pain – This can be from tumors or from bleeding in the bowels.
- Stomach bloating – Also a sign of potential harm to the lower GI area.
- Constipation – Another bowel change that shows that something is amiss in waste disposal.
- Diarrhea – Any bowel changes can signal something wrong in the rectal region.
- Rectal bleeding – Any bleeding from this area should be immediately looked at by a healthcare physician.
- Dark blood on stool – Bleeding from the rectum may not be hemorrhoids, get your doctor to test.
- Long and thin stool – Could be from blockages and tumors “shaping” the stool.
Bowel changes do need to be checked out quickly by a medical professional. Your doctor may call for a colonoscopy (where a long but flexible tube is fed in through the rectum to check the inner walls) or a sigmoidoscopy. Anemia that may show up in blood work can sometimes be from colorectal cancer (including rectal cancer and colon cancer). Your doctor should make sure that your anemia is not from any type of gastrointestinal or digestive bleeding. This type of bleeding is typically linked to cancer and should always be checked.
If you suspect that you or someone you know may have rectal cancer, colon cancer, or the combination colorectal cancer, go get a screening. Early detection is the main key to treatment and living years after a positive determination of cancer is found.