6) Change in Bowel Habits
The polyps are small, abnormal growth of cells formed in the lining of the colon, known as colon mucosa. When colon cancer is staged according to TNM classification, polyps are classified as “stage 0″ or ‘pre-cancerous” stage that have the ability to grow faster and turn into tumor cells over time.
When polyps turn into cancer, they usually start putting pressure on surrounding tissues, affecting bowel habits and triggering certain symptoms. Any change in the stool consistency or frequency coupled with other symptoms discussed above can be indicative of colorectal cancer. The change in bowel habits can be either constipation or diarrhea.
Chronic constipation for more than 2 weeks can be a sign of cancer in the colon, especially if it is not relieved by taking laxatives or other constipation-soothing drugs. According to a 2011 study published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention, there is a strong link between colon cancer and constipation. It has also demonstrated that chronic constipation is a major risk factor for developing colon cancer. Another study on colorectal cancer research also supported the hypothesis that polyps and tumor growth can obstruct the colon and make it very difficult to eliminate waste products, leading to constipation.
Immediately consult your doctor if you are experiencing altered bowel movements for more than a week or two. It can be an early symptom of colon cancer, and prompt diagnosis can increase the chance of recovery.
Like constipation, lingering diarrhea can also be an early sign of colon cancer. When tumor cells grow in size, they start putting pressure on surrounding areas and stimulate the nerve signals. The brain decodes these signals as if your body needs to cleanse itself of excess metabolic waste products. This results in a constant leaking of water and other food contents in the form of soft stools or diarrhea. Some people with colon cancer may also experience frequent abdominal pain, gas, nausea, and vomiting.
When diarrhea lasts for more than a week or so, it can lead to dehydration. This, in turn, can cause depletion of energy sources and stimulate the weight loss process, thereby worsening the symptoms of colon cancer.