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Colon Cancer: Overview and Symptoms

Colon cancer is the third most common cancer worldwide and the second most common cause of cancer death. It accounts for 10 percent of all cancer deaths in the United States.

It is a common and potentially lethal disease, with advanced cancers commonly spreading to the surrounding area and throughout the body, including the liver, lungs, and lymph nodes. However, colon cancer tends to grow slowly and is generally treatable for many years before it becomes advanced. Thus, regular screenings (see Diagnosis section) and early treatment of precancers and early cancers can drastically reduce the rate of life–threatening disease. In fact, regular screening for colon cancer is one of the most important–and life–saving–public health recommendations in the United States.


  • Common symptoms include weight loss, weakness, fatigue, abdominal pain, a change in bowel habits, and decreased caliber of stool.
  • Cancers of the right side of the colon may also cause melena (black stools) or a right–sided abdominal mass.
  • Cancers of the left side of the colon may result in constipation, diarrhea, and hematochezia (bleeding from the rectum). These patients are also at much higher risk of intestinal obstruction, with symptoms that include nausea, vomiting, absence of bowel movements and flatus, and abdominal distension.  


Colon Cancer: Risk Factors, Diagnosis and Treatment >>