Colon Cancer Clinical Presentation

Updated: Jul 31, 2018
  • Author: Tomislav Dragovich, MD, PhD; Chief Editor: N Joseph Espat, MD, MS, FACS  more...
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Because of increased emphasis on screening practices, colon cancer is now often detected before it starts to cause symptoms. In more advanced cases, common clinical presentations include iron-deficiency anemia, rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, change in bowel habits, and intestinal obstruction or perforation. Right-sided lesions are more likely to bleed and cause diarrhea, while left-sided tumors are usually detected later and may present as bowel obstruction.


Physical Examination

Physical examination findings can be very nonspecific (eg, fatigue, weight loss) or normal early in the course of colon cancer. In more advanced cases, any of the following may be present:

  • Abdominal tenderness

  • Macroscopic rectal bleeding

  • Palpable abdominal mass

  • Hepatomegaly

  • Ascites