Rectal cancer tends to be asymptomatic during development. The tumor often develops silently, causing no symptoms that would impair the life of the patient. The asymptomatic period can persist for years. However, as the cancer progresses, some signs may be indicative of its presence andshould lead to consult a health care provider immediately. When rectal cancer symptoms finally emerge it can mean the tumor is already in advanced stage.
Rectal cancer symptoms manifest by Persistent problems or sudden intestinal transit such as:
- Persistent or extend diarrhea,
- Sudden or worsening constipation,
- Increase in abdominal volume,
- Painful and ineffective efforts to expel stool
- Unusual stool structure, being longer and thinner, like a pencil
- Urgent and ongoing need for a bowel movement, especially in the morning
- Pressure in the rectum or sensation that it is full even after a bowel movement,
- Sensation of incomplete evacuation or false urge to defecate, even right after a after a bowel movement.
Bleeding – patient having bloody stool or blood-streaked which lead the stools to be covered ormixed with bright red or very dark blood. They may also be black as ink if blood is digested in the colon. But the bleeding can be invisible to the naked eye. Only checks for blood in the stool by a Hemoccult® test can confirm the presence or absence of colorectal bleeding.
Even when the Hemoccult test is positive, the bleeding should not be too quickly attributed to cancer as other medical conditions can cause the bleeding. Further medical examinations should be performed to determine the real cause.
Abdominal Pain – rectal cancer can be painless at the beginning. When pain occurs, it can be constant or frequent. It is often associated with intestinal cramps, gas, bloating in the lower abdomen, discomfort when sitting, or anal pain. In addition, rectal cancer may cause pain resembling sciatica in some patients.
Rarer Symptoms – Anaemia, low number of red blood cells, is frequent among rectal cancer patients. In addition, the anus may produce mucus which consists of a whitish, viscous liquid, which looks like a spit. But in most cases, a small amount of mucus in stoolis usually nothing related to cancer.
All these symptoms can have other causes than cancer. No one should base on them to declare they have cancer. However, if they persist or appear suddenly, it makes sense to consult a doctor who will carry out tests or refer to a gastroenterologist quickly as it deems necessary for further medical exams to confirm or rule out colorectal cancer.
Complications of Colorectal Cancer
Gradually, as the tumor grows, symptoms can worsen and lead to complications such as intestinal obstruction and peritonitis:
Intestinal Obstruction – the tumor completely blocked the colon, preventing the passage of stooland gas. They then accumulate in the colon, which increases in volume. Intestinal obstruction can cause more or less severe abdominal pain, swelling of the stomach, vomiting and lack of stools and gas during bowel movements. It requires urgent medical attention. Indeed, if the colon continues tostretch, it may puncture, which is life-threatening for the patient.
Peritonitis – this is a serious infection of the membrane that surrounds all the organs of theabdomen (peritoneum). This infection can occur when the colon is perforated. It requires emergency surgery.
Complications can worsen and lead to:
- Jaundice, yellowing of the skin and mucous membranes;
- Change in the general health; loss of appetite, tiredness, weight loss, fatigue, paleness…