Our bodies are amazing machines. They operate with precision until something goes wrong. We can often rely on our bodies to tell us when something is amiss. When we feel pain, soreness, fever or weakness, this could be a warning sign for an underlying condition. But can we always count on a physical symptom to indicate disease?
Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death for both men and women in the United States. It is expected that colon cancer will claim the lives of 50,310 Americans this year. One of the reasons that colon cancer is such a threat is because it often has no symptoms in the early stages. Often, there are no signs or pain until the disease has advanced. Symptoms may increase in severity as the disease progresses, and by the time colon cancer is discovered, it may have already spread to other tissues.
When colon cancer symptoms are present, they may include:
- Abdominal discomfort and bloating
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Pelvic pain
- Dark patches of blood in the stool or long, thin stools
- Changes in bowel movements
- Feeling of not emptying bowels completely
In the early stages of the disease, colorectal cancer symptoms may be minimal, or not present at all. As the disease progresses, though, 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 early stages, regular colon 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. Colonoscopy is considered the gold standard for colon screening because it is the most comprehensive colon examination, offering diagnosis and polyp removal in the same procedure. The best way to prevent colon cancer is to know the warning signs of colon cancer and follow your doctor’s recommendation for colon screenings.