In the past few days, I’ve had conversations with many friends and acquaintances. Some are quite interested in learning more about how colorectal cancer is diagnosed. Most are amazed and somewhat dismayed to learn just how pervasive a problem colorectal cancer is in Canada.
When we get past the initial discomfort people have with talking about bowels and symptoms, I find that almost everyone is willing to spend a few minutes learning about risk factors and signs and symptoms. But not everyone! So, for those who would rather read about it than talk about it, here are symptoms and signs (note, however, that these same signs and symptoms can and often do mean something else entirely):
- Change in bowel habits such as loose stools, constipation, uncomfortable bowel movements, thin stools, a feeling of incompletely emptying the bowels
- Abdominal discomfort, including gas, pain, bloating, cramping and fullness
- Bleeding (bright red or dark)
- Weight loss
- Iron deficiency
Although I think it is important for people to realize what the signs and symptoms are, the bottom line is that we can’t wait for symptoms. Screening before symptoms arise, especially the colonoscopy, is what will make a difference in preventing unnecessary death from colorectal cancer. I just have to hope that family, friends, and acquaintances will learn from my experience and take screening seriously.