By Dr. Farahat.
Quick insights: –
Yellow stool is not a usual symptom of colon cancer. However, the presence of suspicious signs or risk factors such as changes in bowel habits, or bloody stools should raise the concern about colon cancer.
Don’t overthink about yellow stools unless you have suspicious signs or risk factors.
Suspicious signs include:
- Recurrent diarrhea or constipation.
- Bloody or blackish stool.
- A sense of a mass inside your rectum.
- Unexplained prolonged fever or weight loss.
- Unexplained anemia.
Suspicious Risk Factors.
- Age above 5o.
- Family history of colon cancer or polyps.
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
- Alcoholism, smoking
- Eating lots of processed meat.
(1) Is yellow stool a sign of colon cancer?
Colon cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer death worldwide. In the United States, colon cancer is the 3rd cause of cancer deaths in women, and the second cause in men.
The short answer is NO. Yellowish stools are not a usual sign of colon cancer.
If you are experiencing yellow stool, it is better to think about more simple & more common conditions such as infections, yellow foods, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Unfortunately. The early stages of colon cancer are almost asymptomatic. According to one study, colon cancer was found to have no symptoms in over 86% of patients with early stages of Colorectal Cancer.
BUT, should you panic because early colon cancer is asymptomatic?
Today, reading an article about something simple (such as yellow stool) can leave you convinced that you have colon cancer!
In this article, I’II walk you Through a rational process of evaluating your symptoms. Aiming to Break down your fears about colon cancer.
We will use data from research to help you with understanding your stool changes. And to explain when you should worry (and when you shouldn’t) about colon cancer.
(2) when you should actually worry about colon cancer?
As we mentioned before, EARLY colon cancer is mostly asymptomatic.
And this is a challenging condition, As most cases of colon cancer are discovered either accidentally or at a late stage.
When it comes to suspecting colon cancer presence you should Think in 3 directions:
1- What are your Risk factors of developing colon cancer?
2- Do you have the symptoms & signs that are actually related to colon cancer?
3- What are the odds of your current symptom (yellow stool) being colon cancer.
Starting from the last point, the odds of yellow stool being a sign of colon cancer is generally low. The stool colors to worry about are the reddish or blackish stools.
Also, calculating The odds of colon cancer is dependent mainly on what “RISK FACTORS” and The “HIGHly SUSPICIOUS SIGNS”.
(A) Risk Factors of Colon Cancer:
Before you rush into conclusions and expect the worst scenario, you have to think rationally. Firstly, your yellow stool is usually not linked to colon cancer. But you also have to ask yourself: do I have one or more of the signs or risk factors of colon cancer?
If the answer is no, you don’t have to worry about colon canon. But if you have one or more (especially MORE) risk factors; it is better to talk with your doctor about your current symptoms.
• Being older in age: if you’re younger in age (less Than 40 years old), you don’t have to worry a lot. Actually, above 90% of cases of colon cancer are above the age of 50 . The figure below shows That colon cancer risk is very low at ages before 40. And then it gradually increases with age.
- Family history of colon cancer or colon polyps: The risk of having colon cancer increases if one or more of your relatives has a history of colon cancer. Also, family or personal history of colon polyps or a condition called “familial Adenomatous polyposis” Can also raise the risk.
- Inflammatory Bowel disease: people who are diagnosed with Crohn’s or Ulcerative colitis hone higher risk of colon cancer.
- Alcohol, red meat consumption.
- Tobacco smoking.
- Sedentary lifestyle.
(B) what are the symptoms and signs that are actually related to colon cancer?
As we explained before, most cases of early cancer colon almost always have no symptoms. There are some other misconceptions about colon cancer symptoms. For Example, people always worry about abdominal pain.
But The fact is that isolated abdominal pain is quite rare with colon cancer .
The most frequent colon cancer symptoms:-
(1) Diarrhea or constipation: prolonged diarrhea or constipation, especially when it starts at the age of 40 or 50. Frequency: in 75% of cases.
(2) Bloody or Blackish stool: one of the common manifestations of colon cancer, present in 50% of cases.
(3) Sense of a mass inside your rectum or anus.
(4) Anemia (iron deficiency).
(5) weight loss (significant decrease in weight over a short period).
(6) unexplained fever.
The more the number of risk factors and suspicious signs you have, the more the odds of colon cancer. But, the point is not to panic if you have only one or two risky factors/signs.
NOTE: Diarrhea itself can cause yellow stool but only prolonged diarrhea in other age can be a risk of colon cancer.
(3) So, what actually caused my yellow stool?
Answering this question depends on:
(A) The time frame of yellow stool:
- Hours or days (Acute)
- weeks or months (chronic)
- Comes & goes (Recumbent)
you only have to worry about the chronic or recurrent forms of yellow stool. Acute yellow stools are usually due to simple causes such as yellowish foods, Gastroenteritis, or fat maldigestion.
(B) The Associated symptoms AND risk factors.
several associated conditions can lead to yellow stool such as:
- liver and gallbladder diseases.
- pancreatic diseases.
- Gilbert’s syndrome
- Celiac disease.
- stress and anxiety situations.
(4) When to worry about your yellow stools and when NOT?
Yellow stool is not a typical presentation of colon cancer. No need to worry a lot about your condition unless you have some symptoms and factors that are suspicious.
To make it clear for you, we gathered The conditions where you should and shouldn’t worry.
When you should NOT worry?
- Isolated yellow stool with no other risk factors or suspicious signs mentioned before.
- If you have a yellow stool for a day or a few days. it may be due to food, or one gut bug (especially if you have diarrhea).
- If you are younger than 40: the incidence of colon cancer starts to increase after the age of 40 (especially after 50).
- If you don’t have a family history of colon cancers/Familial adenomatous polyposis.
- If there is no bloody or blackish stool.
- If there is no profound weight loss.
- If there is no prolonged unexplained fever.
- If you don’t over-consume processed meat, alcohol, and smoking.
When to worry?
- If you have recurrent diarrhea (constipation attacks (prolonged for weeks).
- If the onset of the recurrent or chronic symptoms above The age of 50.
- Significant weight loss (more Than 20-25%of body weight within a few months).
- Blackish or Bloody stool.
- Unexplained fever for weeks or months.
- Unexplained anemia.
- Family history of colon cancer.
- Family or personal history of colon polyps or Familial Adenomatous polyposis.