Colorectal cancer might not cause symptoms right away. In fact, many of the symptoms of colorectal cancer can also be caused by other problems, such as infection, hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome, or inflammatory bowel disease.
It's important to get checked if you have any of following problems. In many cases, people who have these symptoms do not have cancer. But you should talk to your doctor if you have any of them so the cause can be found and treated.
Often colorectal cancer doesn’t cause symptoms until it has grown or spread. That’s why it’s best to be tested for colorectal cancer before ever having any symptoms. Colorectal cancer that’s found early through screening, before you have symptoms, might be easier to treat. Screening can even prevent some colorectal cancers by finding and removing pre-cancerous growths called polyps.
If you have symptoms that might be caused by colorectal cancer or if a screening test shows something not normal, your doctor will want to do more testing to find the cause.
Your doctor will ask about your medical history to learn about possible risk factors, including check for symptoms and. It's important to know your family history. You will also be asked if you’re having any symptoms and, if so, when they started and how long you’ve had them.
You might be able to have a virtual visit to talk with your doctor about symptoms or risk factors that might be worrying you. But, depending on your symptoms, your doctor might want you to schedule an in-person visit so you can be examined. As part of a physical exam, your doctor will carefully feel your abdomen for masses or enlarged organs, and also examine the rest of your body. You may also have a
digital rectal exam (DRE). During this test, the doctor inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into your rectum to feel for any abnormal areas.
Your doctor may also want you to get more tests such as:
Other tests, such as MRI scans, x-rays and blood tests may also be done to look at how big the cancer is and whether it has spread.
If you have colon or rectal cancer, treatment depends on which type of cancer it is, how big it is, and whether it has spread. Treatment may include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, targeted therapy or immunotherapy. Many people get more than one type of treatment. It’s important to talk openly with your doctor and ask questions if you don’t understand something. Here is a list of questions to ask your doctor that you can take with you.
The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
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