Our colon is the largest part of the digestive system, and it does not only helps the body digest and absorb the nutrients, but also excretes the waste, undigested material through feces. It is further divided into 5 parts, the ascending colon, transverse colon, descending colon, sigmoid colon and rectum. Cancer can develop in any part of the colon, but it commonly appears in the sigmoid-rectal portion.
According to recent statistics by the American Cancer Society and Cancer Research UK, colon cancer is a leading cause of cancer-related deaths in both men and women. At the initial stages, medically known as “carcinoma in situ”, colorectal cancer symptoms are non-existent or minor, but there may be unusual early warning signs.
In the majority of cases, colon cancer symptoms may not develop until the tumor has grown into stage II or beyond. This is the reason why it remains undetected for several months or years, and doctors often recommend regular screening with a colonoscopy to detect the disease at an early stage. Annual screening for colorectal cancer is a part of a health plan in many developed countries, especially in high-risk groups such as those above 50 years of age or with a history of colon cancer in their family, alcohol abuse, and infectious colon disease that may later turn into cancer.
Depending on the stage and severity of the disease, the classical signs and symptoms of colon cancer include;
1) Unexplained Weight Loss
Sudden and unintentional weight loss can be the primary symptom of various types of cancer, including colorectal cancer. Losing 10 pounds or more in 6 months or less without any obvious reason should raise your concern, and in the case of cancer, it may have various explanations.
Cancer cells tend to grow at a faster pace compared to normal body cells and utilize a lot of the body’s energy such as glucose and other nutrients. The immune system also utilizes energy to fight off and eliminate growing tumor cells. These factors cause massive depletion of energy and nutrients meant to nourish other organs, and ultimately results in loss of muscle mass. Another explanation is that cancer cells release toxic substances that kills the immune cells and change the way your body processes the food to make energy.
Furthermore, when a tumor gets large enough, it could obstruct the colon. It also affects a person’s bowel habits and digestion, which contributes to unexplained weight loss.