Most cases of colon cancer begin as small, noncancerous (benign) clumps of cells called adenomatous polyps, which over time, can develop into cancer. Typically, colon polyps may be small and produce few, if any, symptoms, which is why doctors recommend regular colorectal cancer screening tests. Once polyps turn into cancer and begin to spread; however, they may produce some noticeable symptoms.

Some signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer can include:  

  • Changes in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool that lasts for more than a few days
  • Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool
  • Stool that is dark in color
  • Abdominal discomforts, such as bloating, gas, or cramps
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Feeling you cannot empty your bowels
  • Unexplained weight loss

Sometimes, these symptoms can be caused by something other than colon cancer, such as infection, hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Still, it is wise to see your doctor if you have any of these problems. Early detection through proper screening can make colon cancer easier to treat.

Screening Recommendations for Colorectal Cancer

In hopes of reducing the risk of colon cancer or detecting colon cancer at an early stage, the American Cancer Society recommends regular colon screening for most people starting at age 45.

Your doctor may recommend screening at a younger age if you have a family history of the disease or have other risk factors of colorectal cancer that could increase your chances of getting the disease. Read our blog to learn more about colorectal cancer risk factors and who is at risk.

Several different tests can be used to screen for colon cancer. Talk with your doctor to find out which colon cancer screening test(s) would benefit you the most.

If you experience any signs of colorectal cancer, please make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible to discuss your symptoms. Based on your situation, they may recommend bloodwork, a colonoscopy, or other forms of testing to determine if it's colon and rectal cancer.