Symptoms, risk factors for colorectal cancer

March 17, 2003

The American Cancer Society includes the following among symptoms of colorectal cancer:

  • A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation or narrowing of the stool, that lasts for more than a few days

  • A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that is not relieved by doing so

  • Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool

  • Cramping or steady abdominal pain

  • Weakness and fatigue

Other conditions can cause these symptoms, and it's possible to have colon cancer without any symptoms.

George Smith says he had no symptoms before he became ill last summer.

"It's very scary," says Dr. Karl P. Riggle. "That's why we're trying to screen."

Colorectal cancer risk factors:

  • Colorectal cancer most often is found in men and women age 50 and older.

  • African-Americans are at greater risk.

  • A family history of colorectal cancer and/or intestinal polyps.

  • A personal history of inflammatory bowel disease.

  • A high-fat diet of foods mostly from animal sources

  • Physical inactivity

  • Obesity

  • Diabetes

  • Smoking

  • Heavy alcohol intake

- Source: American Cancer Society

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