Common symptoms of rectal cancer are: rectal bleeding, bloody stools, pain in the lower abdomen or pelvic area, and changes in bowel habits. In the early stages, rectal cancers may not cause symptoms. However, routine screening can detect them even when there are no symptoms.

Rectal cancer is a medical condition in which cells in the rectum mutate and begin to grow atypically. The disease is also called colorectal cancer, a general term for cancers that develop in the rectum or colon. However, it is important to note that colon cancer and rectal cancer have different treatment options. This article discusses the symptoms of colorectal cancer and its symptoms in the advanced stages of the disease. It will also discuss when rectal bleeding is a concern and where medical attention should be sought.

What are the symptoms ?

Colorectal cancer might not cause any symptoms in the early stages. Also, a 2015 review states that doctors diagnose many cases of colorectal cancer after symptoms appear, which usually indicates locally advanced cancer.

Here are some of the common symptoms of colorectal cancer:

rectal bleeding
changes in bowel habits that last more than a few days, such as diarrhea and constipation
narrow, ribbon-like saddles
presence of blood in the stool, where red blood is visible, or change in stool color to black or dark brown
abdominal pain
cramps or feeling of gas in the abdomen
nausea and vomiting
the feeling that the intestine does not empty, even after having a bowel movement
fatigue and weakness
unintended or unusual weight loss.

Is pain a symptom of colorectal cancer and how does it manifest?

Colorectal cancer can cause persistent cramping, pain or aches, especially in the abdominal and pelvic regions. This phenomenon is more common in the later stages of the disease.
The pain may resemble that caused by indigestion and may be intense. A person may also feel pain when emptying their bowels.

Rectal bleeding and colorectal cancer

Rectal bleeding can develop due to many less serious causes, such as anal fissures or hemorrhoids. However, it is also one of the common symptoms of colorectal cancer.

If a person has rectal bleeding, they may notice:

blood on the toilet paper after wiping herself
red streaks on the outside of the stool
the water in the toilet bowl turned pink
the presence of blood in the stools, which are then dark in color.
Studies indicate that only a few people with rectal bleeding seek medical attention.

What color would the blood be, and how much blood is of concern?

Colorectal cancer can cause rectal bleeding with bright red blood. In combination with stools, it can cause stools to look dark brown or black.
However, noticing small streaks of blood on the stool or when wiping is not always cause for alarm, as minor problems, such as constipation, hard stools and a small tear in the anus, may be the cause. If a person has a small amount of spot bleeding, there is usually nothing to worry about. However, a person should still contact a doctor to rule out colorectal cancer. People should also see a doctor as soon as possible if they experience constant, large-volume bleeding.

Other Causes of Rectal Bleeding

While rectal bleeding with bright red blood is one of the symptoms of colorectal cancer, other factors can cause it. Hemorrhoids are the most common cause of rectal bleeding.

Other causes include

colorectal or anal polyps
hard stools
anal fissures
inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
Depending on the cause, a person may also experience pain when emptying the bowels and itching.

Signs of advanced rectal cancer

As the cancer progresses and spreads throughout the body, it may cause additional symptoms, such as

jaundice, which refers to yellowing of the skin and mucous membranes
bone pain
difficulty breathing
headaches, seizures or dizziness.
Symptoms can vary depending on where the cancer has spread.

When to contact a doctor

Symptoms of colorectal cancer overlap with those of benign rectal conditions. It is therefore important for a person to contact a doctor if they have any of the symptoms of colorectal cancer.
It is also important to get regular colorectal cancer screenings. This makes it possible to detect the disease at an early stage and improve the outlook for the future.
In people with an average risk of colorectal cancer, it is better to start screening from the age of 45. A person has an average risk of colorectal cancer if they do not have:

personal or family history of colorectal cancer or polyps
history of IBD
hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome
a personal history of irradiation of the abdomen to treat a previous cancer.


Common symptoms of colorectal cancer are rectal bleeding, changes in bowel habits, and blood in the stool. It is best to speak to a doctor if a person notices any unusual symptoms or body changes. A doctor can perform tests to determine the cause of these changes. If he suspects colorectal cancer, he will refer the person to an oncologist for further testing and treatment.

* criptom strives to transmit health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE, the information given can not replace the opinion of a health professional.