Does the abdominal pain from colon cancer have any resemblance to that associated with irritable bowel syndrome?

“Colon cancer with abdominal pain suggests advance stage cancer,” says Pankaj Vashi, MD, Lead National Medical Director, National Director, Gastroenterology/Nutrition/Metabolic Support, Cancer Centers Treatment of America.

Dr. Vashi explains: “The symptoms are more acute with other coexisting ‘warning signs’ like weight loss, blood in the stool, change in bowel habits.

“And loss of appetite vs. IBS related pain is a very chronic condition, usually in females, and the symptoms are present for years, usually starting at a younger age with NO associated warning signs.”

More on Abdominal Cramps and IBS

“Irritable bowel syndrome is a common GI disorder characterized predominantly by abdominal pain, that is associated with a change in stool habits; either constipation, diarrhea or a combination of both,” explains Nnenna C. Okpara, MD, gastroenterologist and director of endoscopy at the Center for Women’s Gastrointestinal Health, Women & Infants Hospital in Providence, RI.

“The pain tends to improve after bowel movements,” she continues.

“IBS symptoms can be mild, moderate or severe, and can have significant impact on the affected individual’s quality of life.

“Nonetheless, it remains an overall benign disease; it does not cause cancer and is not linked to any decrease in length of life.

“Though the single most common symptom in irritable bowel syndrome is abdominal pain, a fair proportion of IBS sufferers also complain of other pain patterns and locations; the most common of these being pelvic pain, headache, non-cardiac chest pain.”

Make sure that any chest discomfort is not the result of cardiac issues before attributing it to IBS or GERD. This will require seeing a cardiologist.

However, chest pain that changes with an alteration in body position, especially if a shift in position relieves it, probably isn’t heart related.

For 20 years Dr. Vashi was instrumental in developing robust gastroenterology, and nutrition and metabolic support programs in all five Cancer Treatment Centers of America centers.
Dr. Okpara’s clinical interests include colorectal cancer screening, gastrointestinal disease in pregnancy, and management of functional bowel disorders, including IBS and constipation.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  


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