Stools that come out like toothpaste from a tube or ribbon-like or thin like pencils can indicate colon cancer.

“If you have an anal or low rectal cancer tumor, your stools might be smaller than normal since this causes the end of the anus or colon to create a toothpaste tube effect – smaller at the tip, so the stool is squeezed thinner than if there was nothing blocking the end of the colon or anus,” explains Sander R. Binderow, MD, FACS, FASCRS, with Atlanta Colon & Rectal Surgery.

“A smaller stool is typically caused by anal or low rectal cancer.

“However, it could most definitely be caused by your diet, diarrhea that could be caused by stress and other variables than a cancer.”

There are cases in which ribbon or thin stools are caused by a polyp (precancer) causing an obstruction.

But nevertheless, Dr. Binderow explains, “By the time you have a colon cancer causing symptoms in your stool, the cancer is in the later stages.

“The most important thing to do is to test regularly for colorectal cancer, when you and your doctor find it’s appropriate, which is usually 50 years old, or younger if you are at higher risk.”

Have you had your colon cancer screening?


Dr. Binderow says, “Colon cancer is the only disease, unlike mammography for breast cancer or X-rays for lung cancer, where you can find before it is in a cancerous stage.

“The cancer always starts out as colon polyps, which means if you find one in colorectal cancer screening and remove the polyp during that same procedure, you’ve prevented cancer rather than catching it when it has already progressed into the disease.

“This is why it is so valuable to screen whether you screen with a colonoscopy or a non-invasive option like Cologuard, which can be done at home and only requires following up with a colonoscopy if you receive positive results.”

Dr. Binderow performs minimally invasive, robotic and laparoscopic surgery for Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, colon cancer and other colorectal conditions. Adept at routine procedures, he also sees patients with complex, atypical maladies.
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.