Colorectal CancerColorectal Cancer Symptoms

Let's Talk About Colorectal Cancer Symptoms

Signs of this disease can look like every other stomach issue you’ve ever had, making it hard to know when to worry. Here’s what the experts say are possible red flags.

    Our Pro PanelColorectal Cancer Symptoms

    We went to some of the nation’s top experts in colorectal cancer to bring you the most up-to-date information possible.

    Leonid Cherkassky, M.D.

    Leonid Cherkassky, M.D.Assistant Professor of Oncology

    Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center
    Buffalo, NY
    Gautam Mankaney, M.D.

    Gautam Mankaney, M.D.Gastroenterologist

    Cleveland Clinic
    Cleveland, OH
    Eduardo Vilar-Sanchez, M.D., Ph.D.

    Eduardo Vilar-Sanchez, M.D., Ph.D.Associate Professor of Clinical Cancer Prevention

    The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
    Houston, TX

    Frequently Asked QuestionsColorectal Cancer Symptoms

    What is colon cancer pain like?

    Colorectal cancer frequently doesn’t cause any pain, especially in its early stages. In some cases, it can cause discomfort, like cramping or bloating, that is very similar to menstrual pain or irritable bowel syndrome. For this reason, people often miss signs that they have colon cancer.

    What’s the difference between irritable bowel syndrome and colorectal cancer symptoms?

    More than 10% of people worldwide have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which causes abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea or both. Colorectal cancer symptoms can look virtually identical, so the only real way to know is through tests like a colonoscopy.

    I’m young. Can I get colorectal cancer?

    Yes. There is an increase in colon cancer in people under 50, according to the American Cancer Society. People under 55 are also nearly 60% more likely to be diagnosed with a late-stage of the disease, partly because not all doctors look for it in younger patients.

    I have low iron. Should I be worried that it's a sign of colon cancer?

    Anemia, or low-iron levels, can be caused by several factors. If it is persistent, your doctor will want to investigate. Along with causing significant fatigue, the condition can be a warning sign of serious illness, including colorectal cancer.

    Lisa Davis

    Lisa Davis

    A health reporter and editor in New York, Lisa Davis has contributed to numerous outlets, including Health, O, the Oprah Magazine, Vogue, Science News, and others.