Colon cancer is cancer occurring in the colon, which makes up the lower part of your digestive system. If colon cancer is specifically in the last section of the colon, it is known as rectal cancer.
Together, these cancers are known as colorectal, or intestinal, cancer. Most often, colon cancer results from adenomatous polyps. Though in most cases, these polyps are non-cancerous collections of cells, in some cases they do develop into cancer. This is why screenings are recommended to identify these polyps before they develop into the serious condition of colon cancer.
What Are Symptoms of Colon Cancer?
Typically, the early stages of cancer in the colon do not cause symptoms in patients. When these symptoms do begin to appear, they vary depending on the size and location of the cancer cells.
If an individual is experiencing potential symptoms of colon cancer, they should speak with their physician as soon as possible to discuss their options.
Signs and symptoms of colon cancer include the following:
- Diarrhea/constipation, or other changes in bowel habits
- Changes in consistency, shape, and size of stools
- Rectal bleeding or blood in stool
- Persistent abdominal discomfort, gas, cramping, and pain
- Fatigue/weakness that is not helped by resting
- Weight loss that cannot be explained
Diagnosing Colon Cancer
Every year, according to the National Cancer Institute, there are over 100,000 new colon cancer cases and 40,000 rectal cancer cases. Of these, there are around 50,000 deaths relating to cancer. These numbers reflect the fact that these cancers are very aggressive and therefore require aggressive and early treatments to achieve a positive outcome.
Diagnosis of cancer in the colon can occur with the following tests:
- CT Scan of the colon
Can Colon Cancer Be Misdiagnosed?
Because there are so many variations of the signs and symptoms of colon cancer, this can result in a delayed diagnosis, misdiagnosis, or even a failure to diagnose. In many cases, patients with colon cancer have been diagnosed with inflammatory bowel diseases such as IBS, colitis, and diverticulitis. Another condition that can be misdiagnosed as cancer in the colon is hemorrhoids. On the other hand, there are patients who have these diseases/disorders that have been diagnosed with colon cancer.
Misdiagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome, IBS, could appear with symptoms similar to colon cancer. If you receive this diagnosis, but symptoms persist with treatment, consider speaking with a colon cancer specialist.
Misdiagnosis of Diverticulitis
Diverticulitis is the result of growths in the digestive tract known as diverticula. With this condition, these growths will become inflamed or infected. If you have been diagnosed with diverticulitis but your symptoms do not respond to treatment, consult a specialist.
Misdiagnosis of Ulcerative Colitis
Another type of inflammatory bowel disease, IBD, that could be diagnosed as colon cancer or vice-versa is ulcerative colitis. This particular condition has no known cure and therefore could be especially dangerous. The symptoms of this condition depend on upon the location and severity of the condition. If you have been given this diagnosis, consider speaking with a specialist before moving forward with treatment.
Misdiagnosis of Hemorrhoids
Hemorrhoids are also referred to as piles. This condition occurs when veins in the rectum and anus become swollen and infected. These can occur internally at the rectum or externally at the opening of the anus. The internal hemorrhoids are most commonly associated with a potential misdiagnosis of colon cancer.
If you suffer from or have been diagnosed with any of these conditions and the symptoms are not relieved by treatment, you could be dealing with a misdiagnosis and should seek a second opinion.