In its early stage, colorectal cancer usually doesn’t have symptoms. That’s why it’s so important to keep up with the tests your doctor recommends to see if you have it, when it’s easiest to treat.
If you do have symptoms, the most likely ones include:
- Changes in bowel movements, including constipation or diarrhea that don’t seem to go away
- Feeling like you can’t empty your bowels completely or urgently need to have a bowel movement
- Bleeding or cramping in your rectum
- Dark patches of blood in or on your stool; or long, thin, "pencil stools"
- Discomfort or bloating in your belly
- Unexplained fatigue, loss of appetite, and weight loss
- Pelvic pain, which can happen in the later stages of the disease
When to Call Your Doctor
Lots of things can cause the symptoms listed above. So you’ll need to check with your doctor to find out what’s going on. Don’t just assume it’s hemorrhoids.
Make an appointment if you have any of the symptoms, or if a doctor tells you that you have anemia. (When doctors look for the cause of anemia, they should check for bleeding from the digestive tract because of colorectal cancer.)
Your doctor will most likely do a rectal exam. You may also get a sigmoidoscopy or a colonoscopy -- exams that involve a long flexible tube put into your rectum so that your doctor can look for any cancers or growths that could become cancer.