Signs & Symptoms of Colon Cancer

What is Colon Cancer? 

Colon cancer or colorectal cancer is the tumorous growth in the large intestine. Colon cancer is the third most commonly occurring cancer worldwide.

Many people across the world are suffering from colon cancer. Both men and women are equally affected by colon cancer and have similar symptoms of colon cancer. 


colon cancer


It is also one of the leading causes of cancer death in many patients. Therefore, early detection is essential if a person gets diagnosed with colon cancer at an early stage the chance of survival increases.  

The symptoms of colon cancer do not appear right away, and hence can be mistaken for an infection, haemorrhoid, irritable or inflammatory bowel syndrome.

Although it is difficult to identify precisely if someone has colon cancer or not, it is advised to consult the best oncologist and get your diagnostic test done.  

This article mainly focuses on common signs and symptoms of colon cancer, its causes, diagnostic tests, stages of colon cancer and treatment options.  

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Common Signs and Symptoms of Colon Cancer 

There are several common signs and symptoms of colon cancer that are observed in many patients.

These symptoms help to indicate disease. Although some of the signs are not unique to colon cancer and are observed in other intestinal issues as well.

symptoms of colon cancer

These symptoms of colon cancer are observed in both males and females. The following is the list of common signs and symptoms of colon cancer: 


1. Change in Bowel Moment 

One of the most common symptoms of colon cancer is a change in a bowel movement for more than a week. This may include having diarrhoea or constipation that continues for a longer period. 


2. Blood in Stool 

Blood in stool which appears dark brown or black is one of the most frequently observed symptoms of colon cancer. 


3. Abdomen Issues 

Some of the early signs and symptoms of colon cancer include abdomen pain, cramps, bloating or gas. These are often observed in conditions other than cancer, but one should not take these symptoms lightly. 


4. Weakness and Fatigue 

The feeling of weakness and fatigue is frequently observed in cases of cancer. This is a common symptom of colon cancer, as the cancerous cells grow rapidly, they require more energy and hence a patient feels weak even after getting proper rest. 


5. Bleeding in the Rectum

Bleeding in the rectum which appears bright red is a crucial sign of colon cancer. Bright red blood dripping after a bowel movement is  


6. Weight loss 

Weight loss is an ordinary sign of cancer. Sudden weight loss is observed in many cases of cancer, hence is a common symptom of colon cancer. 


7. Feeling of unreleased bowel movement 

Always having a feeling of releasing bowel movement that is not released ultimately is a symptom of colon cancer that is observed frequently in a colon cancer patient. The possible reason behind it is tumour growth. 


8. Vomiting 

Feeling of nausea and an urge to vomit is often seen in patients with colon cancer and therefore it is a common symptom of colon cancer. 


9. Changed stool consistency 

Due to changes in bowel movement, the consistency of stool also changes such as the occurrence of narrow and loose stool. This symptom of colon cancer is often observed in other diseases but if it persists for more than a week, a patient must consult a doctor. 


10. Irritable bowel syndrome 

Irritable bowel syndrome is a condition in which a patient suffers from functional gastrointestinal problems. The symptoms of colon cancer are much similar to IMS and hence could be mistaken for one or the other.  


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Cause of Colon Cancer 

The exact cause of colon cancer is still unknown, but the majority of the reasons that cause cancer are a mutation in the DNA of a cell.

These mutations can be inherited from the parents or could be acquired during their lifetime. The mutation is a change in DNA that eventually changes the genes and hence the protein.

Proteins are the most crucial part of the cell cycle. The growth, division, and death of a cell are controlled by proteins.

If these proteins change and become unable to perform their function, this leads to uncontrolled growth of cells which is known as cancer. 

Sometimes, mutation can cause abnormal cells to accumulate together and form polyps. Polyps are non-cancerous growths that appear on the inside of the wall of the large intestine.

Typically, the polyps are small and benign growths but if they are left untreated, they can convert into cancerous growths. 

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Diagnosis of Colon Cancer 

To confirm the condition of a patient, the doctor needs to carry out some tests. These diagnostic tests help the doctor to identify the diseases and the location of the tumour.

Normally, cancer diagnosis requires several tests to completely identify abnormal growth and its adversity.

The diagnostic tests help doctors that are essential to identify the stage of cancer and plan a suitable treatment for it.

Some of the common diagnostic tests that are done to check for colon cancer are 


1. Colonoscopy

It is a procedure to check for polyps in the colon. This process involves the insertion of a long, flexible tube with an attached camera and light.

This tube is inserted into the rectum of the patient to examine the inside of the colon. This test is performed on an empty stomach and the patient is asked to take only fluid 1-2 days before the test.  

Apart from colonoscopy, a similar test known as sigmoidoscopy is done in some cases to examine the colorectal region of the large intestine. The only difference is that sigmoidoscopy inspects a smaller region of the large intestine.  

In both of these tests, the doctor looks for polyps in the colon. If polyps are found, then a surgeon will remove a section of the polyp to get it examined in the lab.  

Read more about: Colonoscopy & its cost


2. Biopsy

A biopsy is one of the most common tests that must be done to extract a sample of tissue from the inside of the lining of the large intestine.

These samples are collected by a surgeon and then sent to pathological labs for examination. The sample is placed under a microscope to examine the cells and check whether it is cancerous or not. 

Read more about: Biopsy & its cost


3. Imaging tests 

There are many different imaging tests which assist oncologists to get an image of the tumour and spreading of cancer.

CT scan, similar to an x-ray, offers a more detailed image of cancer. It also helps to perform biopsies in many cases. 

Ultrasound is also used to get an image of the tissue affected by cancer. It uses sound waves to form an image of the inside of the abdomen and get a detailed image of how much cancer has spread.  

MRI is also often used to examine imaging techniques that use magnetic fields to create a detailed image of an organ.

It is a non-invasive way to get a detailed image of the organ and cancer growth in the organ and surrounding tissues.


4. Gene and protein tests

Some other tests are done to check if some of the proteins and genes are overexpressed in cancerous cells. The type of protein which is overexpressed in a cancerous cell helps the doctor to plan treatment accordingly. 


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Stage of Colon Cancer 

Stages of colon cancer are used to determine the growth of cancer. Doctors use staging methods to indicate how far colon cancer has spread. The diagnostic tests are used to determine the size of the tumour, which eventually helps the doctor stage of cancer.

The stages of colon cancer are given below:  

  • Stage 0: Colon cancer is at an early stage of growth and has not spread at all. The tumour has not grown beyond the inner layer of the colon and is still at the location of origin.
  • Stage 1: The cancer is growing and spreading to a nearby layer of the colon. 
  • Stage 2: This cancer has spread to the muscle layer of colon cancer but has not yet spread to the lymph nodes. 
  • Stage 3: After that cancer has spread to the outer layer of the colon and the nearby lymph nodes. 
  • Stage 4: Lastly, cancer has spread to the nearby organs and other distant organs of the body.  


With increasing stages of cancer, the severity of cancer also increases. Early diagnosis is important to get treatment and hence diagnostic tests are important.

If you experience any of the symptoms of colon cancer mentioned above, suggest a doctor immediately and get the diagnostic tests done.  

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Possible Treatment Options for Colon cancer 

Treatment of colon cancer is determined by the doctor depending on the stage of colon cancer. There are several ways by which colon cancer can be treated including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy etc.

Every treatment eventually aims to get rid of colon cancer but in different ways. The type of treatment that has to be performed depends on many factors. Even the cost of colon cancer treatment in India is quite reasonable compared to other countries.

The main types of treatment considered for colon cancer are:


1. Surgery:

Early stages of colon cancer can be treated by removing benign tumours with the help of a colonoscopy during surgery.

For more advanced colon cancer, extensive surgery is required to remove cancerous cells from the body. This type of surgery is called colon resection or colectomy.

Later stages of cancer are complicated and only experienced surgeons can perform such resection.  


2. Chemotherapy: 

Chemotherapy is a widely used method to treat any type of cancer. It involves drugs that kill the cancer cells in the body or any rapidly growing cells in the body.

The dose of medicine being used is different for different patients. Your doctor will decide the dose and number of sessions a patient needs to take for complete treatment.

Often chemotherapy is used in combination with surgery and radiation therapy depending upon the severity of cancer. Chemotherapy not only kills cancerous cells, but it also helps to improve symptoms. 


3. Radiation therapy: 

Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to destroy the cancerous cells in the body. It is aimed at a particular position to only affect the cancerous cells and not alter the normal cells.

It destroys the DNA of cells and hence stops them from growing. Unlike other treatment options, radiation therapy only aims to destroy cancerous cells.

Some surrounding cells may get affected but they eventually recover after some time. 


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Survival Rate of Colon Cancer

The overall 5-year survival rate of colon cancer depends upon the stage of cancer a person has been diagnosed. As the stages increase, the survival rate decreases.

The adversity of colon cancer makes it more difficult to treat and hence the survival rate is lesser.  

survival rate of colon cancer


The overall survival rate of cancer is advancing day by day as many researchers are going on to advance the technology.

New equipment and medical techniques are evolving continuously. Early detection and treatment are the most important factors that affect the survival rate of a person.

Therefore, any symptoms of colon cancer must not be ignored. 

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