Page Menu

How to Tell the Difference Between Hemorrhoids and Colon Cancer

It can be alarming to have bloody stool, which is a common symptom of both colon cancer and hemorrhoids. It’s reasonable to worry that it’s a sign of cancer, especially when you take into account other symptoms that may be present, such as pain, discomfort and lumps around the anus. However, these symptoms are indicative of hemorrhoids, not colon cancer, as colon cancer presents with very different symptoms.

What are hemorrhoids?

Hemorrhoids are swollen veins located in the anus and rectum, the result of blood vessels around the anal canal becoming congested, and they can be internal or external. Hemorrhoids are more common than most people think, as half of all adults will experience them by the age of 50. Risk factors for hemorrhoids include being pregnant, sitting for long periods, having chronic constipation or diarrhea and lifting heavy objects. Along with rectal bleeding, pain, discomfort and lumps around the anus, other tell-tale signs of hemorrhoids are anal itching, irritation and swelling.

What is colon cancer?

Colon cancer is a more serious condition that develops in the large intestine. The symptoms of colon cancer vary from hemorrhoids in several key ways, including:

  • Change in bowel habits or consistency of stool
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Abdominal pain, such as cramps or gas
  • An inability to empty the bowel

Colon cancer is more common in older adults, forming from noncancerous polyps that have grown on the inside of the colon. Not all polyps will turn into cancer, but identifying and removing polyps before they have a chance to turn cancerous is key to preventing colon cancer. That’s why doctors recommend regular colonoscopies for adults starting at age 50. These screening tests allow doctors to examine the large intestine to find and remove polyps or abnormal tissue.

If you are experiencing colon cancer symptoms and would like to discuss the diagnostic tests available to you, request an appointment at Moffitt Cancer Center by calling us at 1-888-663-3488 or filling out a new patient registration form online. The specialists in our Gastrointestinal Oncology Program have unparalleled experience in treating colon cancer.