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Colorectal Cancer Health Center

Tammy Faye Messner Dies of Cancer

Perspective: Learn More About Colon Cancer and What You Can Do to Protect Yourself
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Colon Cancer Symptoms

In its early stage, colon cancer usually produces no symptoms. The most likely warning signs include:

  • Changes in bowel movements, including persistent constipation or diarrhea, a feeling of not being able to empty the bowel completely, or rectal bleeding
  • Dark patches of blood in or on stool; or long, thin, "pencil stools”
  • Abdominal discomfort or bloating

Call your doctor if:

  • You notice a change in your bowel movements, experience bleeding from the rectum, or notice blood in or on your stool. Don't assume you have hemorrhoids; your doctor will most likely perform a rectal examination and possibly a sigmoidoscopy or schedule a colonoscopy.
  • You experience persistent abdominal pain, unusual weight loss, or fatigue. These symptoms may be due to other causes, but they could also be linked to cancer.
  • You are diagnosed with anemia. In determining its cause, your doctor should check for bleeding in the digestive tract because of colorectal cancer.

Colon Cancer Prevention

In some people it is clear why they developed colorectal cancer: They inherited it. But in most people, there is no identifiable cause. Without a known cause, preventing colon cancer is a tricky business. Even the person who does everything right may still get colon cancer but taking the following steps will significantly improve your chances.

  • High-Fiber, Low-Fat Diet: The National Cancer Institute recommends a low-fat, high-fiber diet that includes at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Major sources of fat are meat, eggs, full-fat dairy products, and oils used in cooking and salad dressings. To increase the amount of fiber in your diet, eat more vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain breads and cereals.
  • Screening: One or more of the colon cancer detection methods described above can help find precancerous signs of colon cancer that can be treated before they turn into cancer. Finding colon cancer earlier with one of these tests also significantly increases the likelihood that it can be cured.

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