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Rectal Cancer Symptoms

Symptoms of rectal cancer may include abdominal discomfort, fatigue, blood in the stool, and a change in the frequency or consistency of the stool (such as diarrhea or constipation). However, in many people with this type of cancer, symptoms usually don't appear in the early stages of the disease. Proper screening may help detect the disease before rectal cancer symptoms develop.

Early Rectal Cancer Symptoms

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

Symptoms of Late Rectal Cancer

As the cancer grows, rectal cancer symptoms can occur. Common symptoms 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 cramps)
  • Weight loss with no known reason
  • Constant tiredness
  • Vomiting.
     
Don't wait to feel pain before you seek medical attention. Early rectal cancer usually doesn't cause pain.
 

Detecting Rectal Cancer Before Symptoms Occur

Since there are no rectal cancer symptoms in the earliest stages of the disease, screening is very important. Screening allows the doctor to find polyps or rectal cancer early. Also, rectal cancer is highly curable if diagnosed and treated early.
 
To find polyps or early rectal cancer:
 
  • People in their 50s and older should be screened
  • People who are at higher-than-average risk of colorectal cancer should talk with their doctor about whether to have screening tests before age 50, what tests to have, the benefits and risks of each test, and how often to schedule appointments.
     
The following colon and rectal cancer screening tests are used to detect polyps, cancer, or other abnormalities in the colon and rectum:
 
Rectal Exam
A rectal exam is often part of a routine physical examination. The doctor or nurse inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the lower part of the rectum to feel for abnormal areas.
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