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Hematochezia as a Symptom of Colon Cancer

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Updated: January 3, 2008

The passage of bright red, bloody stools (hematochezia) usually indicates the large intestine is bleeding somewhere. The most common causes are diverticulitis (inflamed pouches of the colon) and hemorrhoids (swollen veins in and around the rectum).

However, hematochezia can also be a symptom of colon cancer and a variety of other conditions. Examples include:

  • infection of the intestines (such as bacterial enterocolitis)
  • inflammatory bowel disease
  • recent trauma
  • large polyps
  • the presence of a foreign object
  • a lack of proper blood flow to the intestines (bowel ischemia)

Hematochezia as a Symptom of Cancer

Tumors tend to bleed -- not a lot and not constantly, but they do bleed. As a result, some of that blood may show up in your stool. If the tumor is in the beginning of the colon, the blood will most likely be dry and virtually invisible by the time the waste leaves your body. However, if the tumor is in the rectum or toward the end of the colon, it may still be fresh, and therefore, bright red.

Medical Attention for Hematochezia

According to the National Institutes of Health, call your doctor if you notice blood or any changes in the color of your stool. Even if you think hemorrhoids are the culprit, it's better to skip the self-diagnosis and consult with a medical professional. While talking with your doctor, let him know if you've experienced any other potential symptoms of colon cancer and if so, for how long.

Related Articles:

Sources:

"General Information About Colon Cancer." National Cancer Institute 10 Aug. 2007. Accessed 3 Sep. 2007 [http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/colon/patient].

"Hematochezia." Nature Clinical Practice. Accessed 3 Sep. 2007 [http://www.nature.com/glossary/clinicalpractice/defDetails.do?uid=ncp_1191].

"Medline Plus: Bloody or Tarry Stools." National Institutes of Health 25 Jul. 2007. Accessed 3 Sep. 2007 [http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003130.htm].

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