Symptoms & Risk Factors
What are the symptoms of colorectal cancer?
The following are the most common symptoms of colorectal cancer. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently.
People who have any of the following symptoms should check with their doctors, especially if they are over 50 years old or have a personal or family history of the disease:
- A change in bowel habits such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool that lasts for more than a few days
- Rectal bleeding, dark stools, or blood in the stool
- Cramping or gnawing stomach pain
- Decreased appetite
- Unintended weight loss
- Weakness and fatigue
- A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that is not relieved by doing so
The symptoms of colorectal cancer may resemble other conditions, such as infections, hemorrhoids, and inflammatory bowel disease. It is also possible to have colon cancer and not have any symptoms. Always consult your health care provider for a diagnosis.
What are the risk factors for colorectal cancer?
Risk factors may include:
- Age. Most people who have colorectal cancer are over age 50; however, it can occur at any age.
- Race and ethnicity. African-Americans have the highest risk for colorectal cancer of all racial groups in the U.S. Jews of Eastern European descent (Ashkenazi Jews) have the highest colorectal cancer risk of any ethnic group in the world.
- Diet. Colorectal cancer is often associated with a diet high in red and processed meats.
- Personal history of colorectal polyps. Benign growths on the wall of the colon or rectum are common in people over age 50, and may lead to colorectal cancer.
- Personal history of colorectal cancer. People who have had colorectal cancer have an increased risk for another colorectal cancer.
- Family history. People with a strong family history of colorectal cancer or polyps in a first-degree relative (especially in a parent or sibling before the age of 45 or in two first-degree relatives of any age) have an increased risk for colorectal cancer.
- Ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease. People who have an inflamed lining of the colon have an increased risk for colorectal cancer.
- Inherited syndromes, such as familial adenomatous polyposis or hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer, also known as Lynch syndrome. As an inherited syndrome, Lynch syndrome doesn't cause any symptoms and the first sign that a person has LS is when the symptoms of bowel or womb cancer develop.
- Physical inactivity
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- Type 2 diabetes