Photo Credit toilet paper image by Aleksandr Ugorenkov from Fotolia.com Over 100,000 people were affected by colon cancer in 2010, according to estimates provided by the National Cancer Institute. This form of cancer affects the colon, the longest region of the large intestine. Colon cancer often results in stool changes in people with this disease. People who develop any of the stool symptoms associated with colon cancer should seek care from a physician as soon as possible. Loose or Hard Stools Abnormal cancer cell growth within the colon can disrupt the way in which fluids are absorbed and released within the digestive tract. When the colon does not absorb enough water, people with colon cancer can produce frequently loose, runny stools, a symptom referred to as diarrhea, the NCI explains. Alternatively, excessive absorption of fluids from the digestive tract can make it difficult for a person to have a normal bowel movement, a symptom called constipation. People with constipation may excrete small, hard masses of stool that are difficult or painful to produce. Chronic bowel movement changes can be signs of alternate medical problems and should be reported to a doctor as soon as possible. You Might Also Like Complications of Colon Cancer Thin Stools Colon cancer can cause cancerous tumor growth within the large intestine. These growths narrow the digestive pathway, making it harder for ingested food products to pass through the body. Consequently, people with colon cancer can notice that their stools appear abnormally thin, the American Cancer Society reports. The production of narrow stools may also occur in conjunction with abdominal pain, cramping or gas. Bloody Stools Cancer cells can irritate the sensitive lining of the intestinal tract, causing red blood cells to enter the contents of the bowel. Blood within the colon can cause patients with colon cancer to produce bloody stools. The stools can appear abnormally red or dark, or a person may notice blood on the piece of toilet paper used to wipe the rectum after a bowel movement.
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Colon cancer screening tied to better outcomes
“It’s in line with its current use. It shows that colonoscopy appears to be beneficial in reducing deaths in those diagnosed with colorectal cancer,” said Dr. Chyke Doubeni, who studies colonoscopy use but wasn’t involved in the new research. Colon cancer is the third most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S., according to the government-backed U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), which recommends that people between ages 50 and 75 get screened by colonoscopy every ten years. During a colonoscopy, a doctor uses a long flexible tube equipped with a tiny video camera to see the interior of the colon. According to the study authors, the incidence of colon cancer in the U.S. has dropped by about 6 percent since the first national colonoscopy guidelines were introduced in 2000 – mostly due to doctors catching and removing precancerous polyps during screening. Still, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about 22 million people are not up-to-date with their colon cancer screenings. For the new study, Dr. Ramzi Amri and colleagues from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston analyzed data on all people who underwent colon cancer surgery at their hospital from 2004 through 2011. Their goal was to see whether those diagnosed with colon tumors after colonoscopy screenings had better outcomes than patients diagnosed after going to their doctors because they were experiencing symptoms, such as bleeding from the rectum. Amri and his colleagues had data on 217 people diagnosed after screening and 854 who were diagnosed based on symptoms or other tests. They found that in addition to being more likely to die, patients diagnosed with colon cancer based on symptoms were far more likely to have advanced disease, to have cancer that spread to other parts of their bodies and to have cancer that recurred.