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Colon Cancer Stool: Signs to Look Out for

Colorectal Cancer Stool: Signs to Look Out for

May 06, 2024  4 minute read time

Let's dive into a conversation that might feel a bit uncomfortable but is essential for your well-being—yes, we're talking about poop. At CHI Saint Joseph Health, we believe in open and honest discussions about colorectal health because understanding your body's signals is the first step towards proactive care. 

Colorectal cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the colon or rectum, affecting the body's digestive system. This cancer usually begins as a growth called a polyp, which can turn into cancer over time. Recognizing changes in your stool can be crucial for early detection and prevention. In this article, we’ll discuss what your poop might be telling you and how CHI Saint Joseph Health can help.

What Does Poop Look Like With Colon Cancer

Now, let's get down to business. Colorectal cancer can have a significant impact on the color, consistency, and shape of your stool.Here are some changes you might notice:

  • Pebble stool: Stools may become lumpy and hard, resembling small pebbles. This change in consistency can indicate a problem in the digestive tract.

  • Pencil-thin stool: Narrow, pencil-thin stool could indicate a blockage in the colon, often associated with colorectal cancer. This change in shape is a red flag that warrants medical attention.

  • Flat stool: Stools that appear flat or ribbon-like might suggest a narrowing or obstruction in the colon. This alteration in shape can be a sign of colorectal issues.

  • Mucus in stool: The presence of mucus in stool can be a symptom of various gastrointestinal problems, including colorectal cancer. It's essential to take note of any unusual substances in your stool.

  • Blood in stool: Finding blood in your stool, whether it's bright red or dark and tarry, should never be ignored. While blood in stool can sometimes be a symptom of a less severe condition, such as hemorrhoids, it also can be a common symptom of colorectal cancer and requires prompt evaluation by a health care professional.

Other Symptoms of Colon Cancer

Apart from changes in stool appearance, colorectal cancer can manifest through various symptoms affecting the gastrointestinal tract. Keep an eye out for:

  • Constipation: Persistent difficulty passing stool or infrequent bowel movements can indicate a problem with the colon or rectum.

  • Diarrhea: Chronic diarrhea or loose stools that persist over time might signal an issue within the gastrointestinal tract, including colorectal cancer.

  • Abdominal bloating and cramps: Unexplained bloating or cramping in the abdomen could be a symptom of colorectal cancer or other digestive disorders.

  • Never-empty feeling: A sensation of incomplete emptying after a bowel movement may indicate an underlying issue.

 

In its early stages, colorectal cancer may not present with any symptoms. Be sure to talk with your doctor, follow screening guidelines and schedule interval follow-ups as directed

Conditions with Similar Symptoms

It's important to recognize that symptoms of colorectal cancer can resemble those of other conditions, including:

  • Hemorrhoids: Swollen blood vessels in the rectum or anus can cause bleeding, itching and discomfort during bowel movements.

  • Enlarged prostate: In men, an enlarged prostate gland can lead to urinary symptoms such as frequent urination and difficulty emptying the bladder.

  • Constipation: Difficulty passing stool or infrequent bowel movements can result from various factors, including diet, dehydration or certain medications.

 

Consulting with a health care provider is necessary to differentiate between these conditions and determine the appropriate course of action.

How to Detect Colon Cancer

Colonoscopies play a critical role in detecting colorectal cancer. During a colonoscopy, a flexible tube with a camera is inserted into the colon to examine its lining for abnormalities such as polyps or tumors. Colonoscopies also serves as a therapeutic modality as it allows for polyp removal. Individuals at average risk for colorectal cancer should begin screening at age 45, while those with a family history or other risk factors may need earlier or more frequent screenings.

Regular screenings can help detect colorectal cancer in its early stages when treatment is most effective. Talk to your health care provider at CHI Saint Joseph Health about your risk factors and screening options to ensure optimal colorectal health.

Learn More About Colorectal Cancer Screenings

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