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Constipation: Could It Be Telling Us That We Are at Risk of Colon Cancer?


  • Constipation refers to having less than three bowel movements per week, passing hard, dry stools, taking a long time to pass those stools or still feeling the need to visit the bathroom despite just completing a bowel movement.
  • In cases of regular constipation, bloody stools and a sudden, unexpected loss of weight or paleness together with exhaustion, a doctor should be consulted to provide treatment immediately.
  • Anyone over the age of 45, as well as people with a family history of colon cancer, are categorized as being at higher colon cancer risk.

Although constipation is not a serious condition in its own right, if the condition is neglected, it could lead to prolonged and chronic constipation that may result in other related health conditions, such as a colon ulcers or hemorrhoids. In some cases, constipation may even be signaling the onset of colon cancer.

Constipation refers to having less than three bowel movements per week, passing hard, dry stools, taking a long time to pass those stools or still feeling the need to go to the bathroom despite just completing a bowel movement. Generally, constipation is a result of one or a number of the following issues: stress, a low-fiber diet or a diet consisting of insufficient amounts of fiber, lack of hydration, lack of exercise, being too reliant on laxatives or enemas, and holding it in when requiring a bowel movement.

Moreover, it can also be caused by the side effects of some drugs, such as contraceptive drugs, antacids and blood pressure medication, as well as various underlying health disorders which have the potential to affect bowel movements, such as diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and strokes.

For those who experience difficulties passing stools or suffer from regular bouts of constipation, it is advised that a doctor be consulted in the event that their stools undergo a noticeable change. Such a change may come in the form of blood being passed in the stools or a transformation in the stools’ appearance, color and size.

Other potential symptoms of colon cancer are anal bleeding, feeling the need to visit the bathroom more often than usual, a lump protruding from the abdomen, pain in the anorectal region that does not go away, a sudden loss of weight for no apparent reason or paleness, exhaustion and severe stomach pain unassociated with passing stools or passing wind. Click here to read more

Constipation can be prevented with regular exercise, getting sufficient rest, drinking between 8-10 glasses of water per day and abstaining from alcohol and smoking. For those who already suffer from constipation, nutritionists advise that at least 30 grams of fiber should be consumed each day.

It is also recommended that those who already suffer from constipation should be careful to examine their stools for any changes. For example, when the stools become softer and float in the basin, it is a sign that we are getting enough fiber. However, if those stools are hard and lumpy, more fruit and vegetables should be consumed, at the same time as training oneself to pass stools on a daily basis and not holding it in when a bowel movement is imminent.

Foods that offer protection against constipation

  • Brown rice and grains are full of fiber, which nourishes the body and prevents bowel movement issues.
  • Fruits that are not overly sweet, especially ripe papaya, not only provide the body with fiber and hydration, but are also full of vitamins and minerals that aid the digestive process.
  • Green leafed vegetables, such as leeks and spinach, are high in fiber that helps digest food at the same time as providing nourishment for the body.


Making changes to the way you eat and being sure to use a suitable technique when visiting the bathroom could help alleviate chronic constipation. Nevertheless, there are many more risk factors besides this condition which increase a person’s colon cancer risk.

The American Cancer Society recommends that 45 years is the age at which people should begin screening for colon cancer. Colon cancer can be prevented, diagnosed and treated. The technique from Japan offers 60% detection rate, over 2x higher than international standard. Click to read more

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Anupong Tangaroonsanti, M.D. Summary: Internal Medicine Gastroenterology