If I have a hemorrhoid, does it mean that I have colon cancer?
Simply put, hemorrhoids are not a direct cause of colon cancer. Many people just mistake any problem relating to the rectal area with hemorrhoids or piles, perhaps because the condition is so common.
According to a clinical study conducted over two decades ago, nearly 9 out of every 10 patients diagnosed with cancer of the colon and/or rectum had originally thought that they suffered from hemorrhoids. The patients sought help for their symptoms, mainly itchiness and bleeding near the rectum, and were told of the actual cause.
Some analysts have taken the results of this study to propose that thinking that you have hemorrhoids, even if your self-diagnosis turns out to be wrong, could be a good warning sign that you may have colorectal cancer. Additional signs that you may have colorectal cancer include:
- Feeling more gassy than usual, for no apparent reason,
- Feeling constipated for a prolonged period of time,
- Noticing bloody or tar-like stool,
- Noticing strangely shaped stool,
- Noticing a change in frequency of bowel habits,
- Experiencing abdominal pain that does not go away,
- Experiencing a sensation of fullness in the bowels, even after passing, and/or
- Experiencing fatigue for a prolonged period of time, for no apparent reason.
What is the difference between a hemorrhoid and a colon polyp?
Colon cancer typically begins as a small polyp in the colon. A colon polyp is not a hemorrhoid. While hemorrhoids are essentially veins located in the lower rectum and anus that get swollen and/or inflamed, a colon polyp is an abnormal skin growth that develops in the lining of your large intestine. The large intestine is higher up the gastrointestinal tract than the rectum and anus, where hemorrhoids are most likely to develop. Hemorrhoids cause itchiness and mild to severe discomfort, whereas colon polyps usually produce very little symptoms, if any at all. Pre-cancerous colon polyps, unlike hemorrhoids in the rectum and anus, are indeed a reason to believe that you have colon cancer.
Why would I have to get screened for colorectal cancer?
Medical professionals cannot stress enough how important it is to screening for colon cancer early and at regular intervals, in order in ensure early detection and survival. Today, colorectal cancer is the number two causes of cancer death among Americans. Statistics show that 1 in 17 of us will be diagnosed with either colon cancer or rectal cancer before we die.
That being said, methods of screening for colorectal disease are more advanced and accessible than ever before. Specialists hope that in the coming years a more aggressive push to increase regular screening of at-risk patients will drastically decrease the number of fatalities caused by colorectal cancer. Experts said that the rate of survival could potentially increase by as much as 19 percent, which amounts to more than 50,000 more colon cancer survivors every year.
To find out more about hemorrhoids, colorectal cancer and other digestive diseases, consult a professional who specializes in treatment of the lower gastrointestinal tract, such as a gastroenterologist (also called a GI doctor), a proctologist or a colorectal surgeon.