Colon Cancer Home > Colon Cancer Symptoms and Diagnosis

There are no early symptoms of colon cancer; a diagnosis of the disease in its early stages is usually made by screening people before symptoms are present. As the cancer grows, symptoms may develop, such as blood in the stool and diarrhea. By the time people with the disease experience these symptoms, the cancer may be more difficult to treat.

Colon Cancer Symptoms and Diagnosis: An Introduction

As with most cancers in their early, most treatable stages, there are no early colon cancer symptoms. For this reason, it is important to have regular screening tests to check for colon cancer -- even when you might not notice anything wrong.

Common Colon Cancer Symptoms

As the cancer grows, symptoms can occur. Common symptoms of colon cancer 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 can also be caused by 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.
Also, don't wait to feel pain before you seek medical attention. Early colon cancer usually doesn't cause pain, so be sure to see your doctor if you notice any of the symptoms listed above.

Diagnosing Colon Cancer

If a person has any colon cancer symptoms, the doctor must determine whether they are due to cancer or some other cause. The doctor will ask about your personal and family medical history, and may do a physical exam.
To make a colon cancer diagnosis, one or more tests are usually performed. These are the same tests used for colon cancer screening. They can include:
(Click Colon Cancer Diagnosis for more information about these diagnostic tests.)
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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