Colorectal Cancer: Symptoms

By Spader, Catherine RN

What are the symptoms of colorectal cancer?

Symptoms of colorectal cancer can vary among individuals. Some people experience no symptoms at all, especially in the early stages of the disease. In addition, colorectal cancer often develops from benign adenomatous intestinal polyps, which in themselves generally produce no symptoms.

If adenomatous intestinal polyps are not diagnosed and removed promptly, they can become cancerous, resulting in symptoms that may include:

  • A change in bowel movements or habits, such as ongoing diarrhea, narrow (thin) stool, constipation, or runny stool
  • A feeling of not being able to empty the bowel completely
  • Abdominal discomfort or cramps
  • Bloating and gas
  • Fatigue
  • Rectal bleeding, blood in the stool, dark mucus in the stool, or pockets of blood in the stool
  • Unexpected weight loss

Serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition

As colorectal cancer grows, the wall of the colon gets thicker and hardens, and the growing tumor can block the colon, causing intestinal obstruction or rupture of the intestinal wall and a life-threatening infection called peritonitis. Seek immediate medical attention (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have any of these symptoms:

  • Change in level of consciousness or alertness, such as passing out or unresponsiveness

  • Heavy rectal bleeding, or bloody, black or tarry stool

  • High fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit)

  • Severe abdominal pain


What is colorectal cancer?

Colorectal cancer is a cancer that grows within the colon, also called the large intestine or large bowel. Cancer that grows in the last section of the colon, the rectum, is often called rectal cancer, and cancer that grows in other areas of the colon is often referred to as colon cancer. Colorectal cancer most often develops in the lower areas of the large intestine.

Colorectal c... Read more about colorectal cancerintroduction


What causes colorectal cancer?

The exact cause of colorectal cancer is not known. However, research shows that multiple acquired changes to the genetic material in the cells lining the colon can lead to their uncontrolled growth and the formation of precancerous cells, which can eventually form polyps. The presence of adenomatous intestinal polyps that are not removed while still benign (not cancerous) significantly increase... Read more about colorectal cancercauses


How is colorectal cancer treated?

The goal of the treatment of colorectal cancer is to permanently cure the cancer or to bring about a complete remission of the disease. Remission means that there is no longer any sign of cancer in the body, although cancer may recur or relapse later.

Colorectal cancer treatment plans use a multifaceted approach that is individualized to your age, medical history, coexisting disea... Read more about colorectal cancertreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 9, 2014 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

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This Article is Filed Under: Cancer