Constipation, diarrhea, indigestion, and abdominal pain are some of the most common symptoms associated with bowel cancer patients.
The cancer that strikes the colon (large intestine) is referred to as bowel cancer. The colon located below the small intestine is a tubular structure spanning 5-6 feet. This tubular structure in our body is involved in the elimination of fecal matter. In most patients, cancerous growth is reported in the lower region of the colon. The last 12-15 cm of the colon is known as the rectum. When we talk about bowel cancer, it is usually the rectum (rectal area) that shows the tumor growth.
Irregular Bowel Habits
When cancerous tumor develops in the rectum or the upper gastrointestinal tract, it interferes with normal bowel movement. Bowel evacuation can be a daunting task for these patients. These fluctuations in bowel habits are discussed below:
Persistent irregular painful bowel movement has been associated with this condition. When the tumor increases in size, it can be extremely difficult to defecate. The tumor may not allow the stools to pass smoothly through the rectal area and cause moderate to severe abdominal pain during bowel movement.
Incomplete Bowel Movement
Even after bowel evacuation, the patient feels that he hasn’t be able to empty the colon entirely. The feeling of partial bowel movement keeps on bothering him the whole day. This feeling is somewhat true as the affected colon does not support full bowel movement. This is an indication that the tumor has become large enough to prevent the colon from eliminating the entire fecal matter out of the body.
Defecation of watery stools is also observed in bowel cancer patients. This change in bowel pattern can force the person to rush to the toilet frequent number of times. Diarrhea in less common as compared to constipation in colon cancer.
Abnormal Stool Color
When these cancerous tumors bleed during bowel movement, the color of the stool also changes. When the tumor is present in the rectum or near the anus, the stools are partially covered with blood. Excretion of bright red stools is often linked with colorectal cancer. On the other hand, black bowel movement is an indication that the tumor has grown in the upper gastrointestinal tract.
Besides change in color, stool size is strikingly different in these patients. The width of the stools is less than normal. They appear thinner and elongated, hence they are referred to as pencil stools.
The nagging issues associated with bowel movement can decrease the desire to eat food. The appetite may dip sharply, which may lead to weight loss. On the whole, in cancer the weight does not remain stable and the sudden decrease in weight requires urgent medical attention for further diagnosis.
Due to change in bowel habits, one is bound to suffer from indigestion with bowel cancer. Indigestion manifests in the form of bloating, stomach cramps, and flatulence.
In the later stages, the cancer no longer remains localized and soon starts invading other organs. The first organ that becomes a victim of unrestricted cancerous growth is the liver. As a result, the person may experience liver problems such as jaundice wherein the skin loses natural color and turns yellow.
Excessive bleeding of tumor gives rise to a condition known as anemia, a condition in which the body is deprived of sufficient red blood cells. Loss of blood from abnormally high bleeding is the primary reason behind decreased red blood cell count. As the level of healthy blood cells reduces, the person may get tired easily. The onset of persistent fatigue is strongly connected to anemia.
The fever may not leave the patient for at least one week. Even after the fever subsides cancer patients are predisposed to high body temperature. Therefore, the person is likely to experience fever at regular intervals.
Low fiber diet, chronic illnesses of the colon such as Crohn’s disease, and inactive lifestyle are some of the factors behind the occurrence of colon cancer. No wonder, leading a healthy lifestyle is the key to keep this bowel condition at bay.
Treating this condition at the earliest can help to considerably minimize the damage to the intestinal tract. In fact, complete recovery is possible if the cancer is detected in the initial stages. So in case these symptoms do not go away for more than 3 weeks and aggravate over time, one must immediately consult a doctor. The doctor will most probably ask the patient to undergo a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy procedure gives an idea what is happening inside the colon. This will assist the doctor to diagnose early signs of colon cancer, thereby increasing the chances of full recovery.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.