How to Distinguish Between Colon Cancer and Hemorrhoids



Since hemorrhoids and colon cancer may have similar symptoms, it’s important to know the facts about each condition and to get an accurate diagnosis from a physician.

What Are Hemorrhoids?

Hemorrhoids are swollen blood vessels in the anal and rectal walls. When the surrounding tissues become inflamed, they can enlarge, protrude and bleed. Hemorrhoids are common — about half of all adults older than 50 are affected.
Common symptoms of hemorrhoids may include the following:

  • Blood in the stool, on toilet paper or in the toilet bowl
  • Inflammation or a hard lump around the anus
  • Pain, itching or burning around the anus

Hemorrhoids can be internal or external, and both types can bleed. Untreated hemorrhoids can cause infection, anal spasm, ulceration and anemia.

“Hemorrhoids are common, and it’s easy to assume they could be the cause of rectal bleeding. But don’t take a chance — see your doctor and be sure,” said AMSURG Medical Staff Lead Jay Popp, MD.

What Is Colon Cancer?

Colon cancer is cancer of the large intestine that forms in the colon’s lining. Most cases of colon cancer begin as an abnormal growth of cells called a polyp. All polyps start as benign; however, if not discovered and removed, polyps can become cancerous.

Symptoms of colon cancer include the following:

  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Fatigue
  • Thin, pencil-like stools
  • Changes in bowel habits, such as constipation, diarrhea or both
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • A feeling of incomplete evacuation
  • Anal urgency, or feeling a constant need to pass stool
  • Weight loss

Differences Between Colon Cancer and Hemorrhoids

Only a physician can accurately diagnose hemorrhoids or colon cancer, so it is essential to avoid self-diagnosis. Certain activities and conditions often can cause hemorrhoids. Some of these include the following:

  • Pregnancy
  • Constipation
  • Straining to have a bowel movement
  • Lifting too much weight frequently
  • Sedentary lifestyle

With colon cancer, diagnosis can be complicated. Some people do not experience any symptoms. Also, many colon cancer symptoms are commonly experienced with non-cancerous conditions, such as infection, irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease.

Most importantly, colon cancer has more severe health implications, as it is the second-leading cause of cancer death in the United States. An estimated 153,020 new cases of colon cancer will be diagnosed this year, and 52,550 Americans are expected to die from the disease.

Make an Appointment for a Colonoscopy

If you are experiencing hemorrhoids or colon cancer symptoms, you should make an appointment with your doctor. Colon cancer is highly treatable when diagnosed early, and colonoscopy is the most effective test. A colonoscopy allows your doctor to view the entire colon and remove polyps before they become cancerous.

The American Cancer Society recommends that all adults at average risk for colon cancer begin screening at age 45. You may need to get screened earlier if you have a family history of colon cancer or a personal history of polyps. If you have digestive complaints, talk to your doctor regardless of your age. It is important you have troublesome symptoms evaluated.

Syndromes like familial adenomatous polyposis (FAAP) and hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer can also contribute to colon cancer risk, so talk to your doctor about when and how often you should get screened.

Do you need to schedule a colonoscopy? We can help. Our colon cancer screening centers have fellowship-trained gastroenterologists who are accepting new patients. Call today and make an appointment.