Although hemorrhoids and colon cancer share certain symptoms, such as rectal bleeding, they are very different conditions. People who experience symptoms of either should get evaluated by a physician: while hemorrhoids are far more common than colon cancer, an exam is necessary to determine which one, if either, a patient has and how it should be treated.
Hemorrhoids do not cause or increase one’s risk of colon cancer, research shows.
Symptoms of hemorrhoids
Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in the area of the rectum and anus. They can arise inside the rectum or in the skin near the anus. They usually aren’t dangerous and in some cases go away after a few days.
Hemorrhoids are quite common, affecting as many as three out of four adults from time to time. A variety of over-the-counter treatments to relieve hemorrhoids are available and generally relieve symptoms quite well.
The cause of hemorrhoids isn’t always clear, but they generally occur when there’s pressure in the area, as a result of straining during a bowel movement, for example. They’re more likely to occur during pregnancy or to individuals who sit for long periods of time, have chronic constipation or diarrhea, or lift heavy objects.
The most common symptoms of hemorrhoids are:
- Itching or irritation in the anal area
- Bright red blood in the stool
- Pain or discomfort, especially during bowel movements
- Painful or sensitive lumps near the anus
Colon cancer symptoms
Colon cancer is a malignancy that occurs in the large intestine; when it arises in the lower six inches of the colon, it is known as rectal cancer. Colon and rectal cancers are the fourth most common cancers diagnosed in the United States, and incidence rates have been rising among people under age 45, for reasons that remain unclear.
In its early stages, colon and rectal cancer may produce no symptoms. The symptoms that are associated with the disease can also be caused by other conditions, so it’s important to go for an exam when symptoms arise. The most common symptoms of colon and rectal cancer include:
- Blood in the stool
- A change in bowel habits
- Diarrhea, constipation, or feeling that the bowel doesn’t completely empty
- Stools that are narrower than usual
- Frequent gain pains, bloating, fullness, or cramps
- Unexplained weight loss
- Extreme fatigue
- Anemia (low red blood cell count)