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Early Warning Signs of Colorectal Cancer: Recognizing the Red Flags

Tuesday, July 11th 2023 10:00am 3 min read
Dr. Jessica Peatross dr.jess.md @drjessmd

Hospitalist & top functional MD who gets to the root cause. Stealth infection & environmental toxicity keynote speaker.

Colorectal cancer is a prevalent form of cancer that affects the colon or rectum, with a significant impact on global health. Detecting this disease in it’s early stages plays a crucial role in improving patient outcomes. By understanding and recognizing the early warning signs, individuals can take prompt action and seek appropriate medical attention. In this blog post, we will explore four key symptoms that may indicate colorectal cancer: abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, diarrhea, and iron deficiency anemia. These symptoms have been extensively studied in peer-reviewed journals, establishing their significance as potential red flags for colorectal cancer.

Abdominal pain

Abdominal pain is a common symptom experienced by individuals with colorectal cancer. Persistent or recurrent abdominal pain, particularly in the lower abdomen, should be taken seriously and investigated further. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology (JCO) by Park et al. (2019) found that abdominal pain was reported by a significant number of patients with colorectal cancer at the time of diagnosis. The severity, duration, and association with other symptoms should be considered to evaluate the potential link to colorectal cancer.

Rectal bleeding

Rectal bleeding is a notable warning sign of colorectal cancer and should never be ignored. Blood in the stool or bleeding during bowel movements can be indicative of abnormalities in the colon or rectum. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) by Strum et al. (2018) demonstrated a strong association between rectal bleeding and colorectal cancer. It is important to consult a healthcare professional if you notice any blood in your stool or experience rectal bleeding.


While diarrhea can be caused by various factors, persistent or unexplained diarrhea may be a potential early symptom of colorectal cancer. A study published in the British Journal of Cancer by Lee et al. (2020) highlighted the link between chronic diarrhea and the development of colorectal cancer. The researchers found that prolonged diarrhea, especially when accompanied by other symptoms such as abdominal pain or rectal bleeding, warrants further investigation to rule out colorectal cancer.

Iron deficiency anemia

Iron deficiency anemia occurs when the body lacks sufficient iron to produce an adequate amount of red blood cells. It can be a consequence of colorectal cancer due to chronic bleeding from the tumor. A study published in the Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology by Nordenstedt et al. (2017) emphasized the significance of iron deficiency anemia as an early warning sign of colorectal cancer. Individuals experiencing unexplained fatigue, weakness, or paleness should consult a healthcare professional to evaluate the potential underlying cause, including colorectal cancer.

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