Colon Cancer Home > Colon Cancer Early Symptoms

Unfortunately, in most cases of colon cancer, early symptoms do not occur. Signs and symptoms generally develop only after the disease has spread beyond its earliest, most treatable stages. Once symptoms do appear, they may include blood in the stool, abdominal discomfort, and change in frequency of bowel movements. Since early symptoms will most likely not occur, screening before signs of the disease are present is the most effective way to detect the cancer when it may most easily be treated.

Early Signs and Symptoms of Colon Cancer: An Introduction

For most people with colon cancer, early symptoms do not develop. So it's important to have regular screening tests to check for colon cancer, even when no symptoms are present.

Later-Stage Colon Cancer Symptoms

In the later stages of colon cancer, symptoms are more common. These symptoms of colon cancer may include:
  • A change in the frequency of bowel movements
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or feeling that the bowel does not empty completely
  • Either bright red or very dark blood in the stool
  • Stools that are narrower than usual
  • General abdominal discomfort such as frequent gas pains, bloating, fullness, and/or cramps
  • Weight loss with no known reason
  • Constant tiredness
  • Vomiting.
These symptoms may be caused by colon cancer, but they also can be the result of other conditions. Therefore, it is important to check with a doctor if you have any of these possible colon cancer symptoms so a proper diagnosis can be made.
Don't wait to feel pain before seeking medical attention. Pain usually isn't an early symptom of colon cancer.

Screening for Colon Cancer When Early Symptoms Aren't Present

In most cases, early symptoms do not develop when someone has colon cancer. Therefore, screening for the disease is important -- even if you have no symptoms. Screening allows the doctor to find polyps or colon cancer early. Colon cancer is highly curable if diagnosed and treated early.
(Click Colon Cancer Screening for more information.)
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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