Early detection and prompt treatment can significantly improve the life expectancy of a person diagnosed with colon cancer. As colon cancer is a life-threatening disease, one should know about the common colon cancer warning signs. While presenting the information on early signs of the cancer, this article also explains what are the factors that increase the risk for colon cancer.
Cancerous growth in the colon, rectum and appendix is referred to as colon cancer or large bowel cancer. The very early symptoms of colon cancer are similar to the symptoms of other common and minor ailments. So colon cancer symptoms often remain undetected in the early stages.
Large intestine extracts salt and water from the solid wastes. It helps store the waste and it controls the elimination of the fecal matter from the body. Colon dysfunction leads to accumulation of toxins in the body, resulting in several health problems.
Approximately 1,15,000 people are diagnosed with colon cancer every year, according to the American Cancer Society and it is the fourth leading cause of death in females and third leading cause of death due to cancer in men.
Early Warning Signs of Colon Cancer
Adenomatous Polyps Degeneration
Adenomatous polyps are small benign clumps of cells in the large intestine. Colon cancer occurs when the enlarged adenomatous polyps degenerate to develop adenocarcinomas over time. This is found in people below the age of 40. So, people diagnosed with adenomatous polyps can take it as a warning sign of colon cancer.
Bowel Habit Changes
Significant changes in the bowel habit like frequent constipation or diarrhea or marked changes in the consistency of stools persistently for more than fifteen days, constant abdominal discomfort accompanied by gases, pain, cramps, abdominal pain during bowel movement, bloody stools, tarry stools (due to presence of blood), thin stools are all colon cancer warning signs as the growing tumor obstructs the bowel passage.
A tumor at the end of the colon can be sensed as a stubborn piece of waste which causes a ‘sense of fullness’ and does not offer you a feeling of being completely relieved. This bloating sensation is one of the common warning signs of the cancer.
Vomiting that continues for a few days needs to be evaluated by an expert. As the tumor exerts pressure on the organs in the abdomen, the person keeps on vomiting. So, for persistent nausea and vomiting, one should immediately consult a physician.
If there is hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer syndrome, then colon cancer may develop without the precursor polyps as it is said to be related to genetic abnormality. This can be considered as one of the main warning signs of colon cancer.
Other cancers like ovarian cancer, uterine cancer or breast cancer may spread to the colon. Ulcerative colitis can lead to the development of cancer in colon. Obesity increases the risk for this cancer. Abdominal pain and tenderness in the lower abdomen can be the warning signs of cancer.
Chronic rectal bleeding followed by iron deficiency anemia and weakness, excessive fatigue are some of the common early symptoms of the cancer.
Unexplained weight loss or weight loss without any reason or effort, can be a colon cancer warning sign, as the tumor releases certain chemicals which increase the rate of body metabolism.
Healthy diet and regular exercise help maintain normal weight. Good eating and sleeping habits significantly reduce the risk of colon cancer. Alcohol abuse and excessive smoking, lack of high fiber diet increase the risk of this cancer.
Studies show that working at night increases your risk for colorectal cancer (affecting the colon and the rectum). More studies are required to prove this. Experts say that people with type 2 diabetes are more likely to develop cancer of colon.
Depending upon the location of the tumor in the large intestine and the overall health of the person, colon cancer warning signs may vary from patient to patient. Medical history of a person determines when the symptoms of colon cancer would appear. Doctors suggest annual fecal occult blood testing, flexible sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy every 10 years and barium enema every five years, as these tests help detect the cancer. X-rays and CT scans also help detect the tumor in the colon.
It is advised to consult your physician immediately if you ever notice any of the warning signs, described above. One should not hesitate for regular checkups. Regular exercise and healthy diet lower the risk of cancer. Those who lead a sedentary lifestyle should perform exercises regularly.