Common signs and symptoms of colon cancer in men

Medically reviewed by Neka Miller, PhD on May 27, 2021. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.


Colon cancer remains one of the most common types of cancer in the United States. It ranks third among cancer-related deaths (if breast and prostate cancer are combined), and the lifetime risk among all genders is about 4 percent. Catching warning signs of cancer early is the best way to ensure a good prognosis, and often the main way people find out about potential colon cancer is through symptoms.

Signs and symptoms can be easy to miss because they so often resemble other common disorders, particularly digestive disorders. Read on to learn more about the common signs of colon cancer in men below.

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What is colon cancer?

Colon cancer refers to any cancer that begins in the cells of the colon, or large intestine. This is the last part of the digestive tract. Due to the rectum’s proximity, colon and rectal cancers are typically grouped together as colorectal cancer.

So, what causes colon cancer exactly? While there are different types of colon cancer to be aware of, the vast majority of colon cancers affect the lining of the large intestine. Growths often start as polyps, which are benign clumps of cells appearing on the colon’s inner lining. While polyps are harmless, they can eventually turn into cancerous tumors when left untreated.

Colon cancer symptoms in men

Colon cancer symptoms rarely deviate based on a patient’s gender, though men are slightly more likely to have colorectal cancer (about 4.3 percent versus about 4 percent in women). In its early stages, developing colon cancer often doesn’t present with any noticeable symptoms. Symptoms that do appear will vary from patient to patient based on the size of the tumor and its location in the large intestine. For example, a tumor that is higher in the large intestine may cause stools to appear black or tarry, while tumors closer to the rectum will cause noticeably bright red blood in the stools.

Some of the most common signs of developing colon cancer in men include:

  • A persistent change in bowel habits (diarrhea, constipation, or changes to your stool’s consistency)
  • Blood in your stool
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Cramps, gas, pain, or other persistent forms of abdominal discomfort
  • Feelings of incomplete bowel emptying
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Physical weakness or fatigue

In men, tumors more often appear in the end part of the large intestine (the sigmoid colon) or in the rectum. This makes it easier to notice the early signs of bowel cancer. However, tumors and cancer cells can still form farther up in the large intestine.

Screening and diagnosis

As you can imagine these symptoms can be easily mistaken for other common conditions, including hemorrhoids, bacterial infections, and inflammatory bowel diseases. A professional diagnosis is the best way to know for sure that you have colon cancer.

Thankfully, there is a wide range of screening options and diagnostic tests. This can range from fecal tests to colonoscopies. Your doctor may recommend regular screenings, which is the best way to prevent colon cancer. Screening allows a doctor to remove polyps that may potentially turn cancerous or detect colon cancer in its early stages.

If you are experiencing abdominal pain, weight loss, rectal bleeding, or a change in bowel movement, you may want to consider getting tested. Everlywell offers an at-home screening test for colon cancer. This colon cancer FIT screening option is easy to use and can be done in the convenience of your own home. The results from the fecal immunochemical test can then be taken to your healthcare provider to determine any recommended next steps.

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