Rectal cancer begins as noncancerous polyps that develop slowly into cancer over 10 to 15 years. Cancer screenings, including colonoscopy, are essential for identifying cancerous and precancerous lesions as early as possible. Rectal cancer is more likely to be cured when treated in its early stages.
At Dignity Health North State, we recognize that cancer is still one of the scariest words you can hear. That’s why we offer cancer support groups and personal resource guides to help you and your family through the treatment journey. Find a Doctor with expertise in diagnosing rectal cancer symptoms in Northern California at one of our hospitals:
Signs of Rectal Cancer
Often, rectal cancer doesn’t have any symptoms in early stages. That’s why colonoscopy and other screening tests are so important. Talk to your doctor about recommended cancer screenings for men and women.
As rectal cancer grows, it can cause bleeding into the large intestine. This can lead to anemia and a low blood cell count. If your doctor sees this on a routine blood test, it could be a sign of rectal cancer.
Symptoms of rectal cancer may include:
- Rectal bleeding, which you may notice in the toilet bowl or on toilet paper
- Bloody or very dark stool
- Abdominal discomfort
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Narrowing of the stool
- Feeling of incomplete emptying
It’s important to know that these symptoms are also possible with other conditions such as hemorrhoids. If you experience any of these symptoms, see your doctor to rule out or confirm the presence of cancer.
Diagnosing Rectal Cancer at Dignity Health North State
Rectal cancer treatment is most effective in the early stages. Screening tests are the best way to find rectal cancer; they often find precancerous polyps before symptoms develop.
To confirm a diagnosis of rectal cancer, your doctor may use:
- Physical exam and medical history to identify signs and symptoms of cancer
- Blood tests, including tumor markers and complete blood count (CBC)
- Imaging exams, including ultrasound, CT scan, MRI, and PET scan
- Colonoscopy to collect a biopsy or tissue sample
It’s important to talk honestly with your Dignity Health North State doctor to determine the most effective treatment for you and your well-being.