Signs and Symptoms
Cancers of the colon and rectum often show no symptoms in the early stages. Likely first warning signals include:
1. Changes in bowel movements (including bleeding from the rectum, persistent constipation or diarrhea, or a feeling of being unable to empty the bowel completely) that last for more than ten days.
2. Dark patches of blood in or on the stool, or long, thin “pencil stools”.
3. Black, sticky stools, which may indicate internal bleeding.
4. Frequent gas pains, bloating, stomach discomfort, and/or abdominal cramping.
5. Unexplained fatigue and weakness, weight loss, or loss of appetite.
What to do now
If you are diagnosed with this cancer, surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy may cure or help control it.
When to call a doctor
1. If you develop symptoms of anemia (pale complexion, fatigue, rapid heartbeat).
2. Call for advice and appointment:
1. If there’s a noticeable change in your bowel movement habits.
2. If you experience bleeding from the rectum, or notice blood in or on stool or tarry stools (Don’t just assume that you have hemorrhoids.
3. If you experience persistent abdominal pain, weight loss or fatigue. These symptoms can have other causes but should be investigated promptly to rule out cancer.
How to prevent it
1. Eat plenty of whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables- at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day (especially cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage).
2. Cut back on red meat and animal fats in your diet. Cooked dried beans, nuts, and soybean products are good alternative sources of protein.
3. Avoid overcooking meats and fish, and don’t barbecue them.
4. Increase your fiber intake. You might add bran or wheat germ to your breakfast cereal. Start with one tablespoon a day and gradually increase to three or four.