Early Signs And Symptoms of Colon cancer And Prevention

What is colon cancer?

Colorectal cancer refers to cancer in the large intestine (colon) or rectum. Therefore, colon cancer is also known as “colorectal carcinoma.” About half of all colon cancer cases occur in the rectum. Colorectal cancer develops in the mucous membrane that lines the inside of the intestine. The large intestine takes the food pulp from the small intestine, removes water from it and thickens the stool. It transports the undigested food residues into the rectum, from where the stool is excreted through the anus.

Colon cancer in its early stages is easily treatable. If the cancer is not discovered and treated in time, it will gradually grow into the various layers of the intestinal wall. Eventually, the cancer can grow so large that it completely blocks the intestine: an intestinal obstruction occurs. This is a threatening situation. Experts call an intestinal obstruction an ileus.

Over time, the cancer can spread to neighboring tissues and organs: for example, it can grow into the urinary bladder, small intestine, or peritoneum. Individual cancer cells can also reach distant organs such as the liver, lungs, bones, or brain via the blood vessels and form metastases there. 

In Austria, one in 2,000 people is diagnosed with colon cancer every year. People over 55 years of age most commonly suffer from it. It is the second most common type of cancer in women and the third-most common type of cancer in men. Thanks to early detection and improved treatment options, colorectal cancer mortality has decreased significantly in recent decades. 

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Symptoms of colon cancer: These symptoms can indicate this

In the case of colon cancer, possible symptoms often only appear late in the course of the disease. The first signs are usually very non-specific and also occur in many other diseases. What signs of colon cancer should you look out for? And where can you find help?

Abdominal pain, blood in the stool, or indigestion—quite a few people fear that these could be symptoms of colon cancer. Although that is fundamentally correct. However, such signs are very non-specific and can also indicate a whole range of often harmless illnesses. What you should still pay attention to. 

At what age colon cancer occur most often?

Colon cancer is considered a common cancer in Germany. Around 33,000 men and 28,000 women suffer from it every year. However, the risk of becoming ill is strongly linked to age. Over half of all those affected only become ill after the age of 70, and only around one in ten are younger than 55 years.

Possible symptoms of colon cancer

If there are early symptoms in rare cases, what signs of colon cancer could these be? These include, for example:

  • Pain: Colic-like (cramp-like) abdominal pain that lasts more than a week or pain during bowel movements can occur in connection with an intestinal tumor.
  • Digestive problems: Some sufferers describe nausea, a feeling of fullness despite little food intake, intestinal noises, and severe flatulence with involuntary stool or mucus release as early symptoms. This also includes frequent alternation between constipation and diarrhea, recurring constipation, or a particularly frequent urge to defecate.
  • Blood in the stool: In some cases, blood in the stool or a bloody coating on the stool is possible early symptoms of colon cancer. This may include black clots, which may indicate digested blood from intestinal bleeding, or completely black stools.
  • Other stool changes: Mucus in the stool, particularly foul-smelling stools, or “pencil-thin” stools, if they occur frequently, is also a possible sign of an intestinal tumor.
  • General signs of illness: Unusual, frequent tiredness, loss of performance, weakness, paleness, general malaise, and feeling of illness, but also sudden, persistent, unwanted weight loss can indicate colon cancer.
  • Hardening: Palpable hardening in the abdomen or palpably swollen lymph nodes, for example in the groin or in the abdomen, are possible symptoms of colon cancer.
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However, many people affected in the early phase of colon cancer do not have any of these symptoms or only have them to a lesser extent. 

Clarification in your doctor’s office

In any case, it is advisable to consult a doctor if you have intestinal complaints. In this way, it can be clarified whether the symptoms actually represent colorectal carcinoma or another disease.

You will only really know whether you have colon cancer once you have had a major colonoscopy. This is currently the best method to reliably detect whether colon cancer or rectal cancer is present. Trained doctors examine the intestines using an endoscope and can also take samples (biopsies) directly from suspicious areas. Further examinations only follow a positive result.

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Take advantage of offers for early detection of colon cancer

However, since in many cases there are no initial symptoms of colon cancer, it is definitely advisable to undergo examinations for early detection of colon cancer . Here too, doctors usually look for suspicious areas with a large colonoscopy, or often give the reassuring all-clear if they find nothing. 

Health insurance companies generally pay for an early detection examination for men and women aged 50 and over. For men, a colonoscopy is recommended every ten years from the age of 50, and for women, from the age of 55. Alternatively, there are stool tests that can provide information about colon cancer. There are also risk factors , such as a direct relative having colon cancer.

Summary: In many cases, colon cancer initially causes no symptoms at all. Many signs that can indicate colorectal cancer are also quite unspecific; abdominal pain or blood in the stool are often harmless problems or illnesses. A large colonoscopy, which takes place at the age of 50 or 55, provides security. The first year of life is already paid for by the health insurance company as an early detection examination. Take advantage of this offer!