Colon cancer signs and symptoms

Colon cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in Germany. According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), around 33,100 men and 27,900 women contracted bowel cancer in 2014. Around 27,000 people die each year from the consequences. Since this type of cancer rarely causes the first signs or symptoms, and clear symptoms only appear at an advanced stage, early diagnosis becomes all the more important. The warning signs should not be ignored, especially when you consider that early-stage colorectal cancer is curable.

First colorectal cancer signs appear late

The US Cancer Society had shaken the country's population as part of an awareness campaign as follows: "You feel great, you have a healthy appetite, you are only fifty ... - then you have the typical symptoms of colorectal cancer." The sentence is Although exaggerated, it is also significant because it is intended to express that colon carcinomas do not grow overnight, but gradually and often completely unnoticed over the years. First indications are rather uncharacteristic, do not necessarily cause pain and are therefore often ignored. However, experts point out that there are certain signs of cancer that can indicate colorectal cancer.

Uncharacteristic symptoms

Although various general symptoms are uncharacteristic, they can already be the first indications of developing cancer. These include, among other things, an indefinite reduction in performance, fatigue, increased fatigue, pale skin, such as facial pallor, unclear weight loss, possibly a slight fever and unusually strong night sweats. However, since such symptoms are ambiguous, they are usually not rated correctly and the cancer can develop unnoticed.

Colon cancer warning sign

The first symptoms, which are essential warning signs of colorectal cancer, have a lot to do with bowel movements. You should pay attention to whether there is blood in the stool, blood or mucus is lost during bowel movements, the bowel movements smell noticeably foul, purulent, digestion changes (sometimes diarrhea, sometimes constipation), a so-called pencil chair occurs or there is a compulsive urge to stool without subsequent Emptying is coming. If the symptoms described arise, a doctor should be consulted without further delay. Furthermore, the warning signs include repeated, cramp-like abdominal pain, loud intestinal noises, persistent flatulence (bloated stomach), nausea, feeling of fullness (bloated stomach) and loss of appetite. Tactile hardening in the abdominal cavity or enlarged lymph nodes can also be indications of colorectal cancer.

Examination by the family doctor can bring clarity

An examination by the family doctor can often clarify whether there is something serious behind the complaint or whether it is just a harmless problem. Several of the symptoms described could also be the result of a temporary lack of shape, hemorrhoids or indigestion. But even if the doctor should discover a malignant tumor, valuable time can be saved for quick treatment. Doctors use various options for a diagnosis. In addition to a medical history (medical history) and a general physical examination including a tactile examination, this also includes the occult blood test and colonoscopy (colonoscopy).

Early detection is the most effective way

The most effective remedy for colorectal cancer is early detection. Basically, the chances of recovery are very good if the diagnosis is made in time. The goal of early detection is to detect and remove colon cancer before it causes symptoms. Since this type of cancer develops slowly and it takes about five to ten years for a preliminary stage - a benign adenoma - to develop into a malignant tumor due to continued gene changes, the chances of recovery are good. According to experts, over 90 percent of colorectal cancer develops on the basis of a pre-existing adenoma, which can be recognized and removed very well in time with a colonoscopy.

Colonoscopy is painless

In Germany, statutory health insurers aged 50 to 54 years have been able to have a hidden blood test in the stool (occult blood test) as well as a tactile examination of the rectum as part of early cancer detection. And from 55 years of age there is a right to a colonoscopy. If the examination result is normal, a new colonoscopy is possible after ten years. However, far too few of the insured in this country make use of early detection. This is mainly due to the fear of a colonoscopy. Therefore, it is repeatedly emphasized by doctors that patients do not have to be afraid, since colonoscopy is a painless procedure.

Colon cancer risk increases with age

Basically, the incidence of colorectal cancer increases with age. But even if colon cancer is much more common from the age of 50, younger people can also get sick, especially if they have an increased family risk. In about 30 percent of colorectal cancer cases, an inherited predisposition is the cause. Type 2 diabetes and chronic inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis also increase the risk. People from this group need early, regular examinations at a younger age to identify colon cancer and its precursors as early as possible.

Healthy lifestyle prevents colon cancer

In addition to age, genetic factors, the occurrence of adenomas or the bowel diseases mentioned, malnutrition is also a risk factor for colorectal cancer. This is associated with excessive calorie intake, a high-fat and meat-rich diet and a low fiber content. In particular, the risk of eating a lot of red meat is repeatedly proven in studies. In addition, lack of exercise, smoking and alcohol consumption are among the factors that increase the risk of colon cancer. A healthy lifestyle can therefore help to significantly reduce the likelihood of developing colon cancer. (ad)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Robert Koch Institute: Cancer in Germany for 2013/2014, joint publication of the Center for Cancer Registry Data and the Society of Epidemiological Cancer Registries in Germany e. V., (accessed 02.10.2019), RKI
  • German Cancer Aid: Colon Cancer, (accessed 02.10.2019),
  • Maria Haß et al .: Early detection of colorectal cancer, "Guideline Program Oncology" of the Working Group of the Scientific Medical Societies e. V., the German Cancer Society e. V. and the German Cancer Aid Foundation, (accessed 02.10.2019), AWMF
  • Guideline program oncology (German Cancer Society, German Cancer Aid, AWMF): S3 guideline for colorectal cancer, long version 2.1.2019, AWMF registration number: 021 / 007OL, (accessed 02.10.2019), AWMF

ICD codes for this disease: C26.0ICD codes are internationally valid encodings for medical diagnoses. You can find e.g. in doctor's letters or on disability certificates.

Video: Colorectal Cancer Symptoms (November 2021).