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Colorectal cancer is very common, but the rate at which it occurs is dropping steadily. Researchers attribute this trend to two main factors: increasingly effective screening tests and better public awareness.

At Moffitt Cancer Center, we are committed to the prevention and treatment of all forms of cancer. Toward that end, the multispecialty team in our Gastrointestinal Oncology Program explains two key things everyone should know about colorectal cancer.

What are the symptoms of colorectal cancer?

Early-stage colorectal cancer may or may not produce symptoms. Some signs to be aware of – and to bring to the attention of a physician – include:

  • Gas pains, abdominal bloating, cramps, diarrhea, constipation, narrow stools or other bowel changes that last for more than a few days
  • Bright red or dark-colored stools, which could indicate the presence of blood in the bowel
  • Incomplete defecation
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Unexplained fatigue

How can colorectal cancer be detected if it doesn’t produce symptoms?

Some commonly recommended colorectal cancer screening tests include:

  • Standard colonoscopy – A flexible tube (colonoscope) with a tiny camera attached is inserted through the rectum, allowing a physician to view the interior of the entire colon and rectum.
  • Double-contrast barium enema – A flexible tube is inserted through the rectum and used to fill the colon with barium sulfate (a chalky liquid that provides contrast for imaging), after which a series of X-ray images is captured.
  • Fecal occult blood test – A stool sample is tested for the presence of blood, which may indicate the presence of a bleeding tumor in the bowel.
  • Virtual colonoscopy – A flexible tube is inserted through the rectum and used to fill the colon with air (to improve image quality), after which a series of computerized tomography (CT) scans is captured.

If you have questions about colorectal cancer screening or symptoms, you can request an appointment with a gastrointestinal oncologist at Moffitt with or without a referral. Call 1-888-663-3488 or complete our new patient registration form online.