Rectal Cancer Signs & Symptoms

Rectal cancer can be challenging to detect because you may feel only slight symptoms or even none at all. By the time you do feel symptoms, the cancer may be more advanced. For this reason, depending on your age, family history, and other risk factors, we recommend regular screening for colorectal cancer.

There are symptoms you should not ignore because they may be signs of rectal cancer:

  • rectal bleeding or blood in your stool
  • a change in your bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrow stool that lasts more than a few days
  • unexplained abdominal pain or cramping
  • a persistent urge to have a bowel movement that doesn’t go away after you have one
  • unexplained weakness and fatigue
  • unintended weight loss
  • a diagnosis of anemia

Contact your doctor if any of these problems are severe or continue longer than you think they should.

If you have any rectal bleeding or blood in the stool, tell your doctor as soon as possible.

Are the symptoms of rectal cancer different in women? 

The early signs of rectal cancer are generally the same for women and men. However, premenopausal women should be careful not to mistake symptoms of rectal cancer with menstrual issues. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns, especially about bloating that doesn’t go away or happens with unexplained weight loss. 

Signs and Symptoms of Rectal Cancer in People under 50

If you are under 50 and have not been screened for colorectal cancer, it is particularly important that you do not ignore worrying symptoms. Discuss with your doctor if screening is right for you. 

Learn more about rectal cancer under age 50.

MSK colorectal cancer patient Katie Rich with her familly
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