Annual checkups can sometimes feel like they move too fast, with not much time for questions between getting your blood pressure checked and being asked if you want the seasonal flu shot. But if you have recently started to feel chest pains, or you’d been dizzy or out of breath, these are things you’d bring up with your doctor during your appointment. The same should be said for any colon or intestinal issues. Let’s look at some signs that it’s time to talk to your doctor about what you’ve been experiencing.
According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 45,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with rectal cancer this year, and there will be more than 104,000 new colon cancer cases. Colon cancer may present without any symptoms at all. That is why it is important to follow recommended colon cancer screening schedules. But cancer statistics aside, there are several other colon or intestinal problems that can cause pain, discomfort and anxiety. These include irritable bowel syndrome, constipation and hemorrhoids.
Don’t be embarrassed to talk about symptoms. Symptoms of colon cancer can be very similar to symptoms of other colon or intestinal issues, so you should never try to diagnose these issues on your own. Make sure to address any questions or concerns about this with your health care provider. Some people might shy away from talking about colon issues because they are embarrassed to discuss it with anyone. But don’t let your hesitancy get in the way of asking questions and reporting any symptoms. Your health care provider is used to discussing this. They will listen to your concerns and may order common tests like a colonoscopy or another type of screening.
Signs to watch for. The American Cancer Society says there are seven signs and symptoms of colon issues that you should discuss with your doctor. If you have had any of these, call and make an appointment with your healthcare provider.
- Rectal bleeding in which the blood is bright red
- Blood in your stool, which could make your stool look very dark brown or even black
- A feeling of pressure in your rectum like you need to have a bowel movement, but it does not go away even after you’ve gone to the bathroom
- Weight loss when you are not trying to drop pounds
- A noticeable change in your bowel movements that lasts several days or more, which could be diarrhea, constipation, or stool that looks much narrower than normal.
- Pain in your abdomen or belly cramps
- A feeling of weakness or fatigue that just won’t go away
Next steps. Once you describe any symptoms to your health care provider, they’ll be better equipped to determine what is causing the problem. Some colon or intestinal issues may require further testing. Other issues may be resolved with a change in diet, like adding more high-fiber foods, or a lifestyle change that spells out how many minutes of moderate exercise you need to add into your schedule each week. One thing is for sure: you won’t get the answers if you don’t ask the questions.