What Is the Link Between Anemia and Colon Cancer?
Approximately 10 million people in the U.S. have an iron deficiency, including at least five million who have iron deficiency anemia. Meanwhile, statistics show that around 140,000 people are diagnosed with colon cancer symptoms each year, and more then 50,000 of them die from the condition annually. These figures are startling, but what many people don’t realize is that there is a strong connection between the two conditions.
This article will address the link between anemia and colon cancer and how anemia is one of the early symptoms of colon cancer. With a better understanding of this relationship, patients may be able to recognize early warning signs and seek cancer treatment promptly.
Early Symptoms of Colon Cancer
The most common colon cancer symptoms are constipation, diarrhea, narrow stools, abdominal cramps, bloody stools, unexplained weight loss, and loss of appetite. Most cases of colon cancer begin with the growth of polyps that can be cancerous or benign. Individuals with this condition may also experience a constant sense of fullness, nausea, vomiting, gas, and bloating.
In colon cancer patients, anemia can be caused by small amounts of chronic blood loss in the stool. This is one of the colon cancer symptoms that doesn’t get talked about as much as some others. The presence of a tumor in the colon can cause iron deficiency anemia, especially when the tumor is present in the beginning of the colon and is causing bleeding.
Many people who develop colon cancer don’t experience any symptoms at all in the very early stages. Early symptoms of colon cancer that many people overlook or ignore are slight changes in bowel habits and unexplained anemia.
What Does Anemia Lead To?
Anemia is a serious condition in itself, but many people also wonder what anemia leads to. There is an interesting relationship between anemia and colon cancer because anemia can be a first form of presentation of right-sided colon cancer. This is because there is ample room in the right colon, which means that cancers here can grow very large before becoming symptomatic.
Right-sided colon cancers are most likely to cause iron deficiency anemia due to gradual blood loss over time. Meanwhile, the left colon is narrower, so cancers here more commonly lead to bowel obstructions. Other causes of anemia that are related to cancer include chemotherapy, changes in diet, and high levels of cytokines that slow the production of red blood cells.
Treatments for Anemia and Colon Cancer Symptoms
It can take several years for colon symptoms to develop after the cancer has occurred, depending where the tumor is located. Since anemia is often one of the early symptoms of colon cancer, it is important to recognize the symptoms of anemia to get the condition diagnosed as quickly as possible. For example, colon cancer that is tied to anemia is usually marked by gastrointestinal discomfort and irregular stools.
Iron deficiency anemia is a common condition, so unfortunately, it is often overlooked by patients and doctors as an early warning sign of cancer. However, patients shouldn’t avoid a conversation about cancer if a blood test reveals anemia. In addition to surgery and radiation therapy used to treat colon cancer, iron supplements like Fergon may be used to bring iron levels back up to healthy levels.
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