Colon cancer and hemorrhoids are very different conditions, but they can produce blood in the stool. Seeing blood in the stool can be alarming, especially if you have never experienced it before. Most likely, you may have been straining when having a bowel movement and the bleeding is due to a hemorrhoid. In other cases, blood in the stool could be an indication of something more serious. Let’s take a look at both hemorrhoids and colon cancer so you can be informed.
About 90 percent of colon and rectal cancer patients initially thought they had hemorrhoids because of symptoms such as rectal itching and rectal bleeding. Therefore, the belief that you have hemorrhoids could actually be a symptom of colon cancer. If you are experiencing any new signs of rectal bleeding, no matter what your age, you should consult your doctor immediately, especially if it is a new symptom. Hemorrhoids tend to flare and then go away, so bleeding patterns are more erratic and circumstantial. Constipation will exacerbate rectal bleeding, but you will find that your symptoms will gradually disappear. If you are experiencing constant bleeding, increased bleeding or a combination of pain and bleeding, it may be something more than just hemorrhoids.
Is it Hemorrhoids or is it Colon Cancer?
Although hemorrhoids and colon cancer are two very different conditions, they can share similar symptoms. This guide will help you learn about the different signs.
Noticing blood in your stool for the first time is understandably alarming. The good news is, it’s likely that blood in your stool is an indication of hemorrhoids, which, while not much fun, aren’t generally a serious medical condition.
Hemorrhoids are actually swollen veins located in the anus and rectum area, and they’re quite common: About 80 percent of all Americans experience hemorrhoids at some point in their lives. They can be internal (inside the rectum or anus) or external (on, or protruding from, the rectum or anus), and symptoms can range from no or mild discomfort to significant pain, itchiness and bleeding.
While the exact cause of hemorrhoids is unknown, they’re most likely to occur when there’s an increase in pressure in the area, such as when you strain to have a bowel movement, for example. They’re more likely to occur during pregnancy, aging, sitting for long periods of time, chronic constipation or diarrhea, straining, or lifting heavy objects.
Colon Cancer (aka colorectal cancer) is a malignant tumor arising from the inner wall of the large intestine. Signs and symptoms of colon cancer are often not specific, which means they may be mistaken for a number of different conditions. When colon cancer is detected in its early stages, there may be no symptoms present at all.
If you are experiencing new or increased bleeding from the rectum or pain in the rectal or abdominal area, it could be a sign of a more serious condition, including colon cancer. Pain could be the result of an intestinal obstruction. A colon polyp can block fecal matter as it attempts to pass through the digestive tract. Since cancerous tissue bleeds more than normal tissue, a cancerous mass in the colon could possibly be responsible for abnormal rectal bleeding.
Although people of all ages can develop colon cancer, 90 percent of all new cases of colon cancer are in individuals who are aged 50 and older, and that risk increases as you age. Warning signs of colon cancer are:
- Excess gas
- Blood in the stool (bright red blood or very dark blood)
- Change in bowel habits
- Abdominal discomfort
- Change in the shape of the stool or narrower than normal stool
- Fatigue and exhaustion
One major symptom of rectal cancer is a malignant tumour which forms in the tissues of the rectum. Other symptoms of rectal cancer include:
- anal tenesmus (the feeling of constantly needing to pass stools, even if one’s bowels are already empty);
- stools that are not round in shape;
- there is blood in the stool;
- bowel habits change (diarrhea, constipation);
- weight loss and fatigue.
Advanced symptoms of rectal cancer include an increase in pain, and inguinal lymph nodes tumescence; which often becomes life-threatening liver cancer.
Rectal cancers occur mainly in people over 40, who often have certain hereditary conditions, such as familial adenomatous polyposis and hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer. The incidences of rectal cancer are second only to gastric cancer.
To inspect yourself for the presence of rectal cancer, use the following simple method: A finger is inserted into the anus; if the finger detects a hard surface or a bumpy mass, it could be rectal cancer. Eighty percent of digital rectal examinations can provide early detection of rectal cancer.
If rectal cancer is detected early, prompt intervention with traditional Chinese medicine can stop the progress of the cancer.
Hemorrhoids are swollen tissues located in the wall of the rectum and anus, which contain veins. Typically they can become inflamed, develop a blood clot or benign tumour, or become enlarged and protrude (which is very uncomfortable). If they stay inside the anus they are called internal hemorrhoids. Those that protrude outside the anus are called external hemorrhoids.
According to TCM theory, the development of hemorrhoids has three stages:
- Small hemorrhoids which do not protrude outside the anus, fresh bleeding upon defecation;
- Hemorrhoids protrude from the anus with bleeding, although the tissue retracts into the sphincter within a short period of time;
- Large protruding hemorrhoids that bleed and require physical pushing to place back into the interior of the anus. They may exit the body when coughing, sneezing, laughing, or when standing for a long period of time.
Hemorrhoids are believed to be caused by a stressful lifestyle and habits, spicy food, sedentary work, lack of exercise, constipation causing repeated straining, as well as pregnancy. The most common symptoms of hemorrhoids are bleeding stools accompanied by pain. In more advanced cases, the person may experience recurrent seizures, prolonged bleeding resulting in systemic symptoms of anemia, a frail, thready, and weak pulse, anal spasm, infection, inflammation, increased pain, ulceration, severe or abnormal pain, and discomfort when sitting and laying down. Prolapsed hemorrhoids produce external anal mucus, itching around the anus, and other symptoms.
Do hemorrhoids lead to colon cancer?
No. Hemorrhoids do not lead to cancer. However, the primary indication to many people that they may be suffering from hemorrhoids is blood in the stool, on the toilet paper, or in the toilet bowl after bowel movement. Writing off this symptom as hemorrhoids without consultation from a gastroenterologist, who specializes in the study and treatment of the digestive tract which includes the colon, rectum, and anus, can produce a false confidence.
Rectal Bleeding can result from many physical ailments, such as:
- Anal fissure — a small tear in the skin around the anus, typically from passing large or hard stools.
- Angiodysplasia — a condition where swollen and fragile blood vessels develop in the GI tract and may bleed.
- Cancer — Polyps in the G.I. tract may become cancerous and may result in blood in the stool
- Colitis — Inflammation of the colon due to colitis can lead to swelling and bleeding. Causes of the inflammation can include both infections and inflammatory bowel disease.
- Diverticular disease — small, benign pouches develop in the wall of the colon, but may occasionally become infected and bleed.
- Esophageal issues — varicose veins can form in the esophagus that may cause bleeding.
- Peptic ulcers — an ulcer in the stomach or duodenum may become so severe, due to infection or overuse of anti-inflammatory medicines, that it bleeds.
Hemorrhoids, sometimes referred to as piles, are swollen and inflamed blood vessels on the surface of the rectum and/or anus. Hemorrhoids are one of the most common ailments in adults, with approximately 50% of the population having them by age 50. Most people do not start to experience the discomfort of hemorrhoids until their 30s. Hemorrhoids do not discriminate and are common amongst all races and genders. Millions of Americans are currently living with hemorrhoids and suffering in silence. Treatment methods for hemorrhoids have made significant progress in recent years that result in less invasiveness and down time from the procedures.