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Cancer care: Colon cancer

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Colon cancer prevention and detection

Colon cancer symptoms

Certain symptoms may be the result of colon cancer.

Colon cancer signs may include:

  • rectal bleeding
  • bloody or tarry stools
  • stools that are narrower than usual
  • pain during bowel movements
  • constipation or diarrhea lasting more than one month
  • general stomach discomfort (bloating, fullness, cramps, gas pains) for a period of time
  • a feeling that the bowel does not empty completely
  • weight loss for no reason (unintentional weight loss)
  • constant tiredness
  • vomiting
  • low hemoglobin.

However, it should be noted that colon cancer may not have any symptoms.

Colon cancer symptoms can also be caused by other problems such as ulcers, an inflamed colon or hemorrhoids. If you develop any of these symptoms, see your health care provider.


Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Colorectal Cancer: What You Need to Know, can-ahc-14310 (3/05); Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Colorectal Cancer and the Patient at Low or Average Risk, can-ahc-14311 (3/06); American Cancer Society, All About Colon and Rectum Cancer
Reviewed by: Casandra A. Anderson, MD
First Published: 10/19/2009
Last Reviewed: 10/19/2009

Colon cancer tests

Colorectal cancers occur most often in people who are over the age of 50, and the risk increases as people get older. This is why we recommend colon cancer screening for everyone, age 50 and older.

For an average risk patient, the following screening tests can be used. You and your health care provider can decide which colon cancer test schedule is best for you:

  • Prevention testing:
    • a colonoscopy every 10 years
    • if unable to complete colonoscopy:

If you have risks and/or a family history of colon cancer, you may need screening before age 50. Talk about this with your health care provider.

Colon polyp: Is it cancer?

A colon cancer test like a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy will look for a suspicious colon polyp or tissue growth.

Most colon polyps are noncancerous. But they may become cancerous over time.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Colorectal Cancer: What You Need to Know, can-ahc-14310 (3/05); Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Colorectal Cancer and the Patient at Low or Average Risk, can-ahc-14311 (3/06); American Cancer Society, All About Colon and Rectum Cancer
Reviewed by: Casandra A. Anderson, MD
First Published: 10/19/2009
Last Reviewed: 10/19/2009

Colon cancer prevention

An understanding of risk factors associated with colorectal cancer can be the first step toward prevention.

Risk factors for colon cancer:

Age
Family history
Polyps
Diet
Polyps, ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease
Tobacco use, obesity and lack of exercise

Good colorectal health for colon cancer prevention

The following suggestions can promote colorectal health.

  • Get regular colon cancer screening tests.
  • Keep a record of cancers or polyps if they occur in your parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles and children.
  • Eat a diet low in fat and high in fiber. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Do not drink too much alcohol.

If you have any questions or concerns, please talk with your health care provider.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Colorectal Cancer: What You Need to Know, can-ahc-14310 (3/05); Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Colorectal Cancer and the Patient at Low or Average Risk, can-ahc-14311 (3/06); American Cancer Society, All About Colon and Rectum Cancer
Reviewed by: Casandra A. Anderson, MD
First Published: 10/19/2009
Last Reviewed: 10/19/2009