Colon Cancer Stool: What Does It Look Like?
Colon cancer is one of the most common types of cancer. It originates in the colon or rectum and is medically known as colorectal cancer, though most people shorten it to colon cancer. While it is currently one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths, it is preventable. It’s also easier to treat when found early.
The colon, also known as the large intestine, is a long, tube-like organ that plays a crucial role in digesting food. It absorbs water and nutrients from the food you eat and helps form waste into stool. The colon is divided into several sections, including:
- the ascending colon
- transverse colon
- descending colon
- sigmoid colon
The rectum is the last portion of the large intestine, connecting the colon to the anus. It serves as a storage area for stool before it is eliminated from the body. When stool enters the rectum, it triggers the urge to have a bowel movement.
Together, the colon and rectum are responsible for processing and eliminating waste from the body, helping to maintain overall digestive health.
How Can Colon Cancer Affect Stool?
When it comes to colon cancer, subtle changes in bowel habits and stool characteristics can be important signs. Paying attention to these changes can help you spot potential problems early so that you can get proper medical help.
In healthy individuals, stool is typically brown and has a soft, well-formed consistency that is easy to pass.
Variations in consistency, including diarrhea and constipation, may indicate the presence of a bowel condition or, in some instances, colon cancer. Some variations to be aware of include:
- Pebble stool. Pebble stool refers to small, hard, and lumpy feces. While this can be a sign of constipation, persistent occurrences, particularly if accompanied by other symptoms such as abdominal pain or blood, may indicate a blockage within the colon.
- Pencil-thin stool. Pencil-thin stool is unusually long and thin, which can indicate there is a narrowing of the colon due to a cancerous tumor.
- Flat stool. Abnormally flattened or ribbon-like feces characterize flat stool. Tumors that change the shape of the colon or rectum can create this type of stool.
- Mucus in stool. Mucus is a gel-like substance secreted by the intestines that aids in stool passage through the colon. While a small amount of mucus in stool is considered normal, an excess should be examined, especially if accompanied by other symptoms.
- Blood in stool. Take it seriously if you notice blood in your stool or bright red bleeding from your rectum. This could signify pre-cancerous polyps or cancerous tumors in your digestive tract. As your stool passes through, it can mix with blood, making it appear dark brown or black.
It is important to remember that these symptoms can often be caused by other digestive issues and underlying conditions, including:
For this reason, if you experience any changes in your bowel habits, seek a comprehensive medical check. Your doctor may suggest screening or diagnostic procedures such as a colonoscopy.
What Is a Colonoscopy?
Colonoscopies are an excellent tool for both detecting and preventing colorectal issues, and they are typically performed as a part of routine screening or if there are concerns about digestive health.
It is a minimally invasive medical procedure where a doctor uses a long, flexible tube with a camera on the end to examine the inside of your colon. The procedure allows your doctor to check for any abnormalities, such as polyps or signs of colorectal cancer.
Regular colon cancer screenings are essential for individuals aged 45 and above or those with a family history of the disease to potentially detect and treat colon cancer early.
Understanding these warning signs of colon cancer and following routine screening practices can lessen the risks associated with colon cancer.
Early detection is key to successful treatment and improved outcomes – Schedule your appointment today.