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Symptoms & Detection

In most cases, colorectal cancers develop slowly over many years. Usually they begin as a polyp—a growth of tissue that starts in the lining and grows to the center of the colon or rectum.

Most polyps are benign, though some may become cancer if not caught and removed early. Because colorectal cancer often has no symptoms until it’s too late, it’s crucial to get regular screenings.

Common Colorectal Signs and Symptoms

If you do notice symptoms, they most likely include:

  • Changes in bowel habits such as constipation or diarrhea
  • Change in the size or color of the stool
  • Abdominal pain
  • Blood in the stool
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Unexplained anemia

Despite common myths, colorectal cancer affects both men and women. In fact, approximately 26,000 women die every year from the disease. These symptoms may also be associated with other diseases such as hemorrhoids, inflammation in the colon or irritable bowel syndrome. Your primary care provider can help determine the exact cause.

Early Detection is Your Best Protection

Many cancers are only found after they have spread and become difficult or impossible to treat. Fortunately, colorectal cancer is highly preventable with screenings like colonoscopy, offered at CHI Saint Joseph Health locations close to home. By detecting polyps early, you can avoid cancer altogether or catch it in is earliest stage, when you have more treatment options with greater success.

Generally, colorectal cancer screenings should begin at age 45. If you’re at higher risk due to a strong family history or other factors, your doctor may recommend screenings earlier or more frequently.

Speak with your primary care provider to learn more about screening colonoscopy or fecal DNA and FIT testing. If you need a primary care provider, call 859.313.2255.

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