Cancer Treatment Centers of America

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

Rectal cancer symptoms

The symptoms of rectal cancer may be similar to those of other bowel diseases, like ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease or even colon or colorectal cancers. Often there are no early symptoms of rectal cancer. However, as the cancer develops, rectal cancer symptoms may become more persistent and severe. Whereas, people with an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), like ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease, may experience periods of remission where the symptoms subside.

Rectal cancer signs

The development of tumors in the rectum or anal canal may change the consistency, shape or frequency of bowel movements. The severity of the symptoms may increase or more symptoms might arise as the cancer spreads throughout the rectum or into the colon. Rectal bleeding may make the stool bright red. A bleeding tumor may also change the color of the stools, sometimes making the stool very dark or tarry looking.

Rectal cancer signs related to bowel habit changes may include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Not being able to completely empty the bowel
  • Change in the size or shape of stools (narrower than usual)
  • Bloody stool (either bright red or very dark)

General rectal cancer symptoms

Early stages of rectal cancer may have no symptoms. However, more systemic (body-wide) changes may result as the tumor goes deeper into the layers of tissues lining the rectum or if the cancer spreads (metastasizes) throughout the body.

Generalized symptoms of rectal cancer may include:

  • Pain in the rectum
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • More frequent gas pains or stomach cramps
  • Feeling bloated or full
  • Change in appetite
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Fatigue or tiredness

There are several screening methods available that can detect polyps or cancer. A screening may make it possible to find the cancer before symptoms appear.

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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