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Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Colorectal cancer symptoms

Colorectal cancer symptoms may be minimal or non-existent during the early stages of the disease. The signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer may not arise until the disease has progressed into stage II or beyond. Regular screening tests for colon and rectal cancer, especially with a colonoscopy, is recommended as part of a health plan for anyone over 50 years old or anyone under 50 who are at high risk or have a family history of the disease or other cancers. Talk with your doctor about when you should start regular colorectal cancer screening.

Several tests may be used to diagnose colorectal cancer. These tests may include a colonoscopy, or other endoscopic procedures, stool tests, or other lab tests, or an MRI, CT scan or PET/CT scan. In many cases, a biopsy may be required. These imaging and laboratory tests may also be used to track the size of tumors and monitor response to treatment.

Learn more about diagnostic evaluations for colorectal cancer.

colorectal cancer symptoms

Colorectal cancer symptoms

Colorectal cancer signs and symptoms can be broken down into two general categories: local and systemic.

Local colorectal cancer symptoms

Local symptoms are those that have a direct effect on the colon or rectum. If you experience symptoms of colorectal cancer for an extended period of time, it is important that you visit your healthcare professional. Common local symptoms include:

  • Changes in your bowel habits
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Alternating diarrhea and constipation
  • Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool
  • Abdominal bloating, cramps or discomfort
  • A feeling that your bowel doesn't empty completely
  • Stools that are thinner than normal

Systemic colorectal cancer symptoms

Systemic colorectal cancer symptoms are those that affect your entire body. If you experience any of these for any length of time, even for only a couple of days, it is important to have your doctor or healthcare provider diagnose your symptoms. Common systemic symptoms of colorectal cancer include:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Unexplained loss of appetite
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Anemia
  • Jaundice
  • Weakness or fatigue


Last Revised: 06/18/2018

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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