IBS Or Colon Cancer: Signs You Shouldn't Ignore.
MD, Assistant lecturer of internal medicine, Gastro-enterology, & Hepatology.
IBS sufferer, Gut health enthusiast, and writer.
Your health matters, my content is not a substitute for the medical advice by your doctor. #Stay_Safe
By Dr. Farahat.
Many times we -IBS sufferers- get confused about our gut pain.
Sometimes we expect the worst (colon cancer).
But you don’t have to worry too much, as this may worsen your IBS
You only turn the red lights on when:
- Having blood in your stools
- Losing weight more frequently
- Having a feeling of incomplete emptying or a mass in your rectum
- Vomiting a lot are getting a recurrent fever of unknown origin
Your abdominal pain or recurrent attacks of diarrhea alone is not a specific sign of colon cancer. So don’t worry about them.
Actually, many cases of colon cancer have no symptoms. so you have to screen.
The colon cancer pain vs IBS pain
You may be wondering if the pain of the IBS is different from the pain of colon cancer?
To answer this question, I dug into research papers and I found a shocking fact
your abdominal pain is not the thing to worry about.
Studies found that abdominal pain is a single symptom is the least common sign of cancer colon less than 4% (as it only appears late).
People always get worried about their abdominal pain. But abdominal pain is not a thing to worry about when coming to colon cancer Unless your pain is not typical for IBS.
Unlike IBS, abdominal pain from colon cancer attends to be:
- dull constant pain,
- usually not related to meals
While the IBS pain is:
- fluctuant colicky pain.
- related to meals.
What is the first symptom of colon cancer?
The first symptom of colon cancer is usually a change in your colon habits
AKA having diarrhea or constipation.
The second most common symptom of colon cancer is blood in your stools. This blood may be fresh red or dark red up to a black colored stool.
It comes when the cancer mass inside the colon starts to bleed, usually starts with very small amounts of bleeding. So, the blood coming with stool can be missed by many people hence its amount is small. So, do have care for yourself and always check for your stool color.
You may not notice frank bleeding, but only dots of bleeding (reddish or blackish dots) within your stool.
Other symptoms include feeling always fatigued usually due to anemia from the blood loss
Also, some people can feel a mass inside their rectum or their abdomen but it is rare
To give you an overview of the common symptoms associated with colon cancer look at the list below search shows the percentage of each symptom in colon cancer (source):
1. Having constipation or diarrhea occurs in 75% of colon cancer patients (Unfortunately, diarrhea and constipation are also very common with IBS)
2. Dark or bright red blood in stool found in about 50% of colon cancer patients
3. Rectal mass in about 25%
4. Anemia and iron deficiency in about 10%
5. Isolated abdominal pain only 3.8%
Also, other general symptoms (not related to your colon) may be present like:
- Unexplained fever.
- Progressive weight loss over the past months which it is significant not just cabas kilograms loss.
- Having nausea or anorexia.
Can IBS cause colon cancer?
The short answer is NO.
However, people with IBS-C (irritable bowel syndrome with constipation predominance) may have a small risk due to the prolonged presence of stool inside the intestine(constipation) allowing toxins to irritate the colon lining and affecting the cells at its wall.
According to the American Colleague of Gastroenterology, the risk of colorectal cancer is linked to chronic constipation, not the IBS.
If you have IBS-C you can avoid this by the use of anti-constipation agents and colon detoxes.
The main problem of IBS is the misdiagnosis of colon cancer
In other words…
although IBS itself doesn’t carry a risk for colon cancer, its symptoms may mask the diagnosis of cancer.
How to solve this problem?
The two main actions you should take to avoid colorectal cancer while you have IBS are:
The first: is to learn more about colon cancer in order to assess your risk.
The Second is to take steps to protect yourself from getting colon cancer.
Keep reading we will discuss both steps.
What is the incidence of colon cancer by age?
There are many people afraid of getting colon cancer at a young age. But the fact is over 90% of new colon cancer cases occur above the age of 50.
These numbers will give you a picture:
from age of 30 to 35: only 3 people Per 100,000 get colon cancer.
30 to 35: 6 per 100,000
35 to 40: 9 per 100,000
40 to 45: 13 per 100,000
45 to 50: 23 per 100,000.
And these numbers are way less than older age incidences. For example, people who are over 80 have an incidence of 500 cases for 100000 population.
Also, only 10% of cases occurred below the age of 50.
The stat below shows the percentage of new cases by age.
The colon cancer stool vs the IBS stools. Is there is a difference?
The main difference between the normal IBS stools and colon cancer stool is blood.
This blood can be “fresh red” or “dark red” or even “black”
if you have IBS, it is impossible for your stool to have blood in it.
Whenever you experienced any type of blood in your stools regardless of you abdominal pain you should consult your doctor.
Blood in the stool occurs due to a variety of conditions, and it doesn’t necessarily means you have colon cancer. The idea is not to panic from blood and not to ignore it.
Is diarrhea a sign of colon cancer?
Diarrhea alone is not a specific sign of colon cancer.
Diarrhea became a sign of colon cancer and when it is accompanied by some warning signs like:
- bloody stools
- weight loss
- severe nausea
- recurrent fever
So, if you have the classical picture of IBS that includes abdominal pain and diarrhea don’t worry too much.
Only worry if diarrhea becomes prolonged, non-responding to usual IBS medications or have the above-mentioned warning signs.
What can cause colon cancer for IBS sufferers?
1. Faulty diet habits
Some faulty diet tablets can increase your risk of having colon cancer. The most common faulty habits are eating foods that are high in fat and processed meat and low in fiber.
2. Smoking and alcohol
Research has found that people who smoke and drink alcohol more frequently are at higher risk of having colon cancer.
If you are obese, you should worry about that. Obesity is a well-known risk factor for lots of cancer types including cancer colon.
4. Being too lazy
A sedentary lifestyle also is recognized as a risk factor of colorectal cancers.
People who are unaware of the importance of physical activity and body fitness are in great danger.
5. Other (Non-modifiable) factors
Unlike the first four risk factors (which you control and avoid them), the below risk factors are Non-modifiable and you don’t have control over them.
- Older age.
- A family history of colon cancer.
- Diabetes mellitus.
- Inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.
- African American race.
When to screen for colon cancer?
The American Cancer Society recommends that all persons above 45 years start screening for cancer colon
You can choose between two tests:
1. stool-based tests: you give a stool sample and get analysis for it.
2. visual-based tests: when your doctor examines your colon either by colonoscopy or by computerized tomography (CT scans).
But persons at high risk like having family history diabetes or obesity should start screening at a younger age
You are free to choose what test to do after consulting with your doctor. And The point is to do the test if you need it, whatever the method.
I have IBS what can I do to prevent colon cancer?
1. avoid constipation
People with IBS constipation are at greater risk of developing colon cancer
Constipation makes the toxins stay longer at your colon, hence increases the risk of cancer.
You can avoid constipation by:
- Eating a high fiber diet.
- Drink plenty of water every day.
- Eat dried plums and drink prune juice SEO are rich in a sugar substitute sorbitol.
- Avoid high protein diet.
- Avoid bread and cereals made with refined grains whole grains are ok.
- Don’t abuse carbonated drink coffee.
- Eat fewer dairy products especially cheese.
2. get a screening test if you are above 45yo.
As we mentioned before, in the United States, the American Cancer Society recommends starting
- screening at age of 45.
- start screening at a younger age if you have a higher risk (having diabetes, obesity, family history of colon cancer, or if you are of the black American race.
- you should do the screening test every year.
3. if you are obese, start a weight loss program today.
I call obesity the mother of diseases. Obesity is related to many diseases not only cancer.
You can lose weight by:
- Walk every day.
- Try a weight loss diet program.
- Eat high-fiber, low FODMAP Diet.
- Try these three no-fail recipes for weight loss in patients with IBS.
4. Don’t be lazy
A sedentary lifestyle truly increases the risk of getting colon cancer. My message to lazy people is this is the time to change.
If you really care about your health so please try to live a healthy lifestyle.
- Go to the gym.
- Get a treadmill at your home and practice
- Have a few minutes of exercise at home, there are lots of phone apps that can help you do some home-based exercises without equipment
- Or just give yourself a 30-minute walk every day
Any of the above tips will dramatically improve your IBS, help you to lose weight, and protect you from cancer and other diseases.
4. If you are an alcohol drinker or cigarette smoker, cease and desist!
If you are drinking a certain amount of alcohol you don’t have to stop it at once.
Instead, try to cut the amount you drink (let’s say to the half) for a certain time (let’s say for a couple of weeks).
When you are ok with that you can repeat the process again and gradually decrease the amount of drinking. This is done until you completely stop drinking.
This gradual withdrawal usually works better, and the same strategy can be used to cease smoking.
5 probiotics can save you.
There is growing evidence every day that probiotics may decrease the risk of developing colon cancer. according to a new study at the American Journal of pathology, the intake of certain types of probiotics can help to prevent or treat colon cancer.
The probiotic microbes release a substance called Histamine, which in turn decreases the inflammation and suppresses tumor progression in the colon.
We all know the benefits of probiotics to your IBS added on to the new evidence that it may protect your colon from cancer. So, there is no excuse to stop or not taking probiotics.
But note that there tons of probiotic companies out there, and only a few of them manufacture high-quality probiotics suitable for your IBS.
Make sure to check My recommendations in the resources page for IBS sufferers.
6 Other protective agents
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), Vitamin B9, folic acid, Calcium, vitamin D, garlic, and fish-eating are also recognized as protective factors against developing colon cancer.
consider eating foods or taking supplements containing these vitamins and nutrients if you have a deficiency.