6 Hidden Signs Of Colon Cancer That Most People Miss
With cancer, timely diagnosis is the ultimate game changer. Here are the vital signs of colon cancer that go unnoticed.
What is colon cancer?
Colon is the last part of the large intestine that connects it to the rectum or anus, from where wastes exit the body. Colon cancer begins at this part of the intestine and may spread to other parts. Colon cancer is believed to start as small, innocent-seeming lumps inside the colon called polyps. These polyps may turn cancerous at a later stage in life.
Early Symptoms Of Colon Cancer
You might think that only the visibly dreadful symptoms of colon cancer mark the onset disease. But this is far from reality. In actuality, a majority of people who face colon cancer tend to have no symptoms in the early stages, and might have cancerous tumours growing in them for years. Even though symptoms vary depending upon the size of cancer and its location in the large intestine, it is important to note that colon cancers’ overall duration of symptoms, and stages of tumour aren’t linked together. Just like any other health condition, early detection is key; in colon cancer, getting a diagnosis of anaemia might reveal if you are bleeding internally, followed by other tests.
Listed here are the 6 silent symptoms of colon cancer you should be aware of:
1. You’re often short of breath –
Facing difficulties in catching your breath is one of the foremost signs of slow internal bleeding – an alarming sign of colon cancer. Basically, when your body is incapable of proper blood flow, then there is an accumulation of plasma in the blood, further reducing your blood’s ability to transport oxygen to different parts of your body; hence, causing difficulties in proper breathing.
2. Your poop is often blood red in colour –
When the tumour swells up in size internally, it can lead to the passage of blood in your faeces. The colour of the blood might be dark or bright red, and can be often found mixed with mucus (of which, there is a small amount in stool). An abnormal amount of mucus in the faeces, especially if it is red in colour, is a cause for concern. A symptom of colon cancer, the blood is dry in appearance, and the tumour is hidden inside it. The passage of blood might also be accompanied by a painful bowel movement.
3. Consistently constipated –
Having irregular bowel movements, just 2-3 times a week, can be more than just a lifestyle problem. It can also be the beginning of colon polyps, which may begin as benign tumours, and later develop into cancer. A tumour that is present in the rectum, or is situated in the far end of the colon, can get in the way of eliminating waste material from the body. In fact, facing diarrhoea for more than a couple of weeks is also considered to be a glaring symptom of colon cancer.
4. Narrow or skinny stool –
This might not sound like a very pleasant picture to visualise, but believe us when we say that checking your stool consistently, for narrow or skinny shape, can keep colon cancer at bay. Stools that are shaped like ribbon strands indicate that the waste material being eliminated is facing obstacles on its way out, which might indicate a tumour in the latter part of the rectum.
5. Feeling lethargic or fatigued, often –
The presence of a tumour can lead to a deficiency of iron in your body. The body loses iron, as oxygen doesn’t get transported to all the parts of the body adequately, causing Anaemia.
6. Lack of appetite, or unexplained weight loss –
The acute pain and disturbing feeling of tumour can even lead to a loss in appetite, as the tumour releases chemicals that spike up your metabolism. As a result, this might lead to unexpected and unexplained weight loss.
Colon Cancer Survival Rate
According to the British Medical Journal, “Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third most commonly diagnosed malignancy and the fourth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the world, and its burden is expected to increase by 60% to more than 2.2 million new cases and 1.1 million cancer deaths by 2030.”
Overall, the survival rates vary significantly between countries, but the rate of incidences seems to have a pattern. Countries with high human development index (HDI) like Central and Eastern Europe and Latin America have the highest rates of cases reported, while countries with extremely low HDI like Sub-Saharan Africa report low numbers.
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Colon Cancer Test
So, are there any quick tests to diagnose colon cancer? Well, blood tests cannot reveal much about your colon, as much as they might shed light on kidney or liver function. Therefore, the best way to diagnose colon cancer is a colonoscopy. Once a diagnosis is made, oncologists track blood chemical levels of carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) to discern how well the cancer may be responding to treatment.
How to prevent colon cancer
Preventing colon cancer completely depends on several risk factors that are known to lead to the condition in the first place, for example- family history, lifestyle, place of residence, and age. Keeping these factors in mind, here is how you can prevent colon cancer entirely…or at least reduce your chances of developing it:
- Load up on fibre:
2. Maintain a healthy weight:
Obesity has to been linked to cardiovascular diseases, stroke, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, gall bladder stones, gout, and at least 11 cancers – including that of the colon and rectum.
3. Cut down on smoking and drinking:
Truth is, alcohol and cigarettes are one of the biggest risk factors behind at least 14 types of cancers, including colon cancer. But if quitting altogether seems impossible to you, consider cutting down on them.
4. Limit processed foods:
Doctors recommend limiting the consumption of processed foods, especially meat, to a maximum of 3 times a week. Additionally, recent studies have suggested that foods naturally rich in calcium and vitamin D like salmon, yoghurt, spinach, and mustard not only prove to be beneficial for bone health, but also play a crucial role in warding off colon cancer.
All adults over the age of 50, male and female, must get a colonoscopy done every 5 years. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer or a personal history of chronic inflammatory bowel disease, then you may have to start regular screening much earlier and more frequently. Depending on your situation, your doctor may recommend alternate screenings like sigmoidoscopy or a virtual colonoscopy as well.
In case you experience any of the above symptoms, make sure to consult your doctor. Do not panic, for experiencing these symptoms do not guarantee that you have colon cancer, but, a quick screening will help eliminate any unnecessary concerns from your mind. After all, it is better to be safe than to be sorry!