Colon Cancer Symptoms: 5 Early Warning Signs
Subtle signals to watch out for
The standard wisdom about colon cancer is that most people don't experience any symptoms in the early stages of the disease. That's true, in part; it's best to take advantage of all the available methods of colon cancer testing, including having regular colonoscopies after age 50 (earlier if you have extra risk factors, such as a family history of the disease). But according to research -- and to those who've been diagnosed with colon cancer -- there are also some surprising early signs of colon cancer to be aware of.
Colon cancer symptom #1: Bathroom troubles
People diagnosed with colon cancer often look back and realize they'd been struggling with mysterious digestive problems for some time. These issues are embarrassing to talk about, but it's important not to keep this early sign of colorectal cancer to yourself.
How it feels: Like chronic diarrhea, gas, or constipation, or a combination of all three. (Of particular concern are alternating bouts of diarrhea and constipation.) You may also notice that it feels like your bowels aren't emptying completely or notice "pencil stools" that are thinner than usual. Many colorectal cancer patients say they received a prior diagnosis of colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, or another bowel condition before they were tested and diagnosed with cancer.
What causes it: Polyps and tumors in the colon and rectum can irritate or narrow the lining of the intestine.
What to do: Any time serious digestive symptoms persist for a week or more, discuss them with your doctor. Diarrhea is particularly concerning because it can lead to severe dehydration and drain your body of nutrients. One rule of thumb: If you have six or more bowel movements a day for several days, it's time to report it.