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Colon Cancer Center

Colorectal Cancer Symptoms

Many people diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer experience no symptoms in the early stages of the disease. As symptoms of colorectal cancer appear, they'll likely vary, depending on the size and location of the cancerous cells in the large intestine. Studies suggest that the average duration of symptoms (from onset to diagnosis) is 14 weeks. There is no association between overall duration of symptoms and the stage of your tumor.

Symptoms of colorectal cancer
Cancer of the colon and rectum can exhibit itself in several ways. One major symptom is bleeding from the rectum. People commonly attribute all rectal bleeding to hemorrhoids, thus preventing early diagnosis, owing to lack of concern over "bleeding hemorrhoids." If a tumor becomes large enough, however, it can partially or completely block the colon. Symptoms of bowel obstruction or possible colorectal cancer include:

  • abdominal distension
  • bleeding from your rectum
  • blood mixed with stool
  • change in frequency or character of stool (bowel movements)
  • iron-deficiency anemia (a symptom of chronic, hidden rectal bleeding)
  • pale skin
  • persistent abdominal pain
  • rectal pain
  • sensation of incomplete evacuation after a bowel movement
  • small-caliber (narrow) or ribbon-like stools
  • unexplained, persistent nausea or vomiting
  • unexplained weight loss
  • unusual fatigue

When to seek help
If you have notice any of the symptoms listed above, seek medical help. Most of these symptoms can be caused by conditions other than colorectal cancer, such as infection, hemorrhoids, or inflammatory bowel disease. But if you notice any of these problems, it's important to see your doctor right away so the cause can be found and treated, if needed. Seek immediate medical help if you notice any of the above signs and symptoms.

In determining the cause of any of these symptoms, your doctor should check for bleeding from the digestive tract because of colorectal cancer. But how do doctors diagnose colorectal cancer? Learn more about the required tests, procedures and how to identify a colorectal cancer screening in our Diagnosing Colorectal Cancer section now.

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