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Colorectal cancer symptoms

In the early stages of the disease, colorectal cancer symptoms may be minimal, or not present at all. As the disease progresses, symptoms may increase in quantity and degree of severity. Because colorectal cancer symptoms often do not present themselves until the disease has progressed past the initial stage, regular screening is recommended, and should be part of a continued health plan for anyone over 50. If you are under 50 and have a family history of colorectal cancer or other risk factors, you should talk with your doctor about when you should start regular screening.

colorectal cancer symptoms

Metastatic colorectal cancer symptoms

When cancer cells break away from a tumor formed in the colon or rectum and spread to other parts of your body through the blood or lymphatic system, these cells can settle and form new tumors on a different organ. This is called metastatic colorectal cancer.

Even though the cancer has spread to a new organ, it is still named after the part of the body where it originally started. For example, if colorectal cancer spreads to the lungs, it is called metastatic colorectal cancer. The most common site of metastases for colon or rectal cancer is the liver. The lungs and the bone are also places where colorectal cancer cells tend to spread. If you have been treated for colorectal cancer and now cancer cells have been identified in any of these areas, it is most likely that the original colorectal cancer has spread.

Metastatic colorectal cancer is different from recurrent colorectal cancer. Recurrent colorectal cancer is cancer that returns to the same part of the colon or rectum after treatment, rather than spreading to other parts of the body.

Symptoms of metastatic colorectal cancer

Metastatic colorectal cancer symptoms depend on where the cancer has spread, as well as the size and location of the tumor within the body. Patients with metastatic colorectal cancer will not always notice symptoms before a diagnosis.

  • If the bones are affected, symptoms may include pain, fractures, constipation or decreased alertness due to high calcium levels.
  • If the lungs are affected, symptoms may include shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, coughing, chest wall pain or extreme fatigue.
  • If the liver is affected, symptoms may include nausea, extreme fatigue, increased abdominal girth, swelling of the feet and hands due to fluid collection and yellowing or itchy skin.
  • If the lymph nodes of the belly are affected, it may cause bloating, a swollen belly or loss of appetite.
  • If the brain or spinal cord is affected, symptoms may include pain, confusion, memory loss, headache, blurred or double vision, difficulty with speech, difficulty with movement or seizures.

Understanding cancer symptoms

These symptoms may be attributed to a number of conditions other than cancer. If you notice any cancer signs or symptoms, it's important to visit your doctor for an accurate diagnosis.

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