Many people do not experience any symptoms when colon cancer is in early stages, according to Mayo Clinic. The presence and severity of symptoms depends on where the cancer is located in the colon. A change in bowel habits or blood in the stool are often warning signs.
Additional symptoms related to colon cancer, which do not necessarily indicate an early form, include unexplained weight loss, fatigue and weakness, as Mayo Clinic notes. A change in bowel habits can refer to diarrhea, constipation or a change in the consistency of stools and not just how often a person uses the restroom. Persistent abdominal discomfort or pain as well as feeling that the bowel has not emptied completely are both potential signs of colon cancer.
The best way to catch colon cancer in its early stages is with screening, according to Mayo Clinic. Guidelines recommend screening to begin at age 50, but people with risk factors should begin screening earlier.
One factor that increases the risk for colon cancer is family history. In some cases, familial cancer is not caused by genetics but a shared exposure to toxins or a shared diet and lifestyle. Smoking cigarettes, alcohol and obesity also increase the risk of colon cancer. A sedentary lifestyle, a diet low in fiber and high in fat, and inflammatory intestinal conditions increase the risk of developing colon cancer. African Americans have a higher risk of developing colon cancer than other ethnic groups, and people with genetic conditions such as Lynch syndrome have a very high risk, according to Cancer.net.