Rectal Bleeding

Even though rectal bleeding might be caused by a harmless condition, finding blood in the stool is frightening. Naturally, morbid thoughts begin to race in our mind. Rectal bleeding is often the first sign of serious conditions such as colon cancer and stomach cancer. Blood in the stool can be bright red, maroon, or black. The color of the blood is a good indicator as to the culprit of bleeding. Moreover, some rectal bleeding is invisible to the naked eye, and only detected by stool samples. It is important for those who experience rectal bleeding to understand that several conditions may lead to this problem. Nonetheless, disregarding rectal bleeding would be foolish. Common causes of rectal bleeding include:

Anal fissures
Colon cancer
Stomach cancer
Hemorrhoids

What are Anal Fissures?

Anal fissures are cuts or tears that occur near the opening of the anus. Fissures are an extremely common condition. This condition affects people of all ages, both males and females equally. Moreover, most rectal bleeding that occurs in infants is the direct result of anal fissures. In addition to bleeding, fissures may cause moderate to severe pain when having a bowel movement.

Anal fissures are caused by trauma. This trauma generally occurs during a bowel movement. Hard stools are the primary culprit. Individuals who suffer from constipation have a natural tendency to strain their bowels in order to pass a stool. Recurrent diarrhea may also cause anal fissures. In addition, medical procedures that warrant insertion in the anus, such as an endoscope or ultrasound, may be the root of anal fissures.

The most common symptom of anal fissures is pain during and following a bowel movement, and rectal bleeding. For the most part, the pain is so severe that many avoid having a bowel movement. However, this complicates the situation because ignoring the urge to pass a stool will result in constipation or impacted stools.

What is Colon Cancer?

Colon cancer is a serious form of cancer. If left untreated, the disease progresses and may ultimately lead to death. The colon is the area of the digestive tract that stores waste. Colon cancer occurs when cells divide abnormally and form tumors. There are two types of tumors. Benign tumors are non-cancerous and caused by an overgrowth of healthy cells. Malignant tumors are cancerous. Malignant cells divide and spread rapidly, thus it is imperative that colon cancer is diagnosed, and treated immediately. Individuals diagnosed with colon cancer likely experienced rectal bleeding in the early stage. The severity of bleeding varies, thus many do not seek medical advice.

Several factors contribute to developing colon cancer. Physicians and researchers have concluded that individuals who consume a high fat diet have an increased chance of developing this type of cancer. Moreover, those with a family history of colon cancer and colon polyps also have an increased risk.

Most doctors believe that colon cancer begin as colon polyps, which are benign tumors in the colon. Colonoscopies easily detect colon polyps. In this procedure, an instrument is inserted into the anus, and provides doctors with images of the colon. If not surgically removed, colon polyps may become cancerous.

There are several indicators of colon cancer. These include:

Rectal bleeding
Fatigue or weakness
Diarrhea
Constipation
Abdominal cramps
Bloating
Weight loss
Shortness of breath

Many conditions have symptoms that closely mimic the signs of colon cancer. Thus, those who develop one or several of these symptoms should not be alarmed. Other illnesses include irritable bowel syndrome, peptic ulcers, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis. Physicians will provide a full examination to rule out colon cancer and other less serious conditions.

What is Stomach Cancer?

Many doctors term stomach cancer the “silent killer.” This is primarily because many cases of stomach cancer are not diagnosed in the early stage. Abdominal discomfort is common. Moreover, many conditions may cause chronic stomach pain. The stomach consists of several types of cells. Cells occasionally divide. However, when cells divide unnecessary, this results in an overgrowth of healthy cells and a mass or tumor forms. These are called benign tumors and they are harmless. On the other hand, if cells abnormally divide and begin attacking other healthy cells, malignant cancer has developed. Each year there are approximately 24,000 new cases of stomach cancer. The key to surviving stomach cancer is early detection; thus it is important to recognize the warning signs. Cancer spreads very quickly. Once malignant cells begin to attack or spread to other parts of the body, the cancer becomes more difficult to treat and a patient’s chance of survival decreases.

Because the symptoms of stomach cancer are extremely vague, many ignore tell-tale signs or put off visiting a doctor. Common symptoms of stomach cancer include:

Rectal bleeding
Indigestion
Abdominal pain
Bloating after meals
Diarrhea
Constipation
Loss of appetite
Weight loss (advance stages)
Vomiting

What are Hemorrhoids?

Hemorrhoids are tissues within the anus that contain blood vessels. This is a very common condition, and the cause of most rectal bleeding. People of all ages can develop hemorrhoids, however they are more common in those between the ages of 45 and 65. Hemorrhoids are present in everyone. They only cause problems when enlarged. Hemorrhoids are either internal or external. Internal hemorrhoids do not protrude from the anus, and are often indicated by a painful lump next to the anus. This lump is caused by a swelling of blood vessels located in the anal canal. External hemorrhoids do protrude outside the anal canal. Hemorrhoids are very uncomfortable, however they rarely lead to more serious conditions such as anal or colon cancer.

Several factors cause hemorrhoids to enlarge. These include low fiber intake, straining to have a bowel movement, pregnancy and labor, pelvic tumors, lifting heavy objects, being overweight, constipation, and chronic diarrhea.

The most common symptom of internal and external hemorrhoids is rectal bleeding. Blood may appear in stool or on toilet paper after having a bowel movement. Other symptoms include:

Anal itching
Mucus discharge from rectum
Skin irritation
Severe pain
Painful lump near opening of the anus

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