Is there a difference in the way nausea feels when it’s caused by cancer vs. IBS?

Or is all nausea the same, whether it’s caused by cancer or irritable bowel syndrome?

Nausea, regardless of whether it’s from colon (or liver, for that matter) cancer or IBS, in and of itself feels the same.

“Nausea” is a symptom that refers to a sick feeling in one’s stomach that makes them feel as though vomiting is imminent.

Nausea can feel mild, moderate or severe, and can come in waves or be persistent—whether you have irritable bowel syndrome or colon cancer.

Colon Cancer Nausea vs. IBS

“Colon cancer related nausea versus IBS related nausea needs to be considered in regards to whether ‘alarm’ symptoms are present,” says Franjo Vladic, MD, a board certified gastroenterologist with Center for Digestive Health and Endoscopy Center in Ohio.

“Alarm symptoms are present in organic pathology conditions causing nausea like colon cancer, and should be addressed with a medical professional,” continues Dr. Vladic.

“Alarm symptoms are absent in IBS related nausea symptoms.”

The following are alarm symptoms, but keep in mind that if you have some of these, this doesn’t mean you necessarily have a malignant tumor.

  • Symptom onset after the age of 50 yrs. old
  • Severe or progressively worsening symptoms
  • Unexplained weight loss (can also be caused by diabetes, celiac disease, hyperthyroidism, inflammatory bowel disease)
  • Unexplained iron deficiency, anemia
  • Night time symptoms
  • Fevers or chills
  • Rectal bleeding (can also be caused by hemorrhoids or anal tears)
  • Family history of colon cancer or inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s) or celiac sprue

Additional alarm symptoms: unexplained fatigue, pencil thin stools and constipation, especially if in between episodes of constipation there is diarrhea.

The biggest alarm may be the persistence and progression of any symptoms that you do have along with the nausea — a set of symptoms that are not going away.

For women, if a workup by your gastroenterologist comes out negative for colon cancer, and even if you’re diagnosed with IBS, you may want to consider having an exam of your ovaries by an OBGYN.

Some of symptoms of ovarian cancer, including nausea, are the same as that of colon.

The symptoms of a benign ovarian cyst are virtually identical to that of ovarian cancer.


Cologuard is an easy home screening tool for colon cancer that uses the most advanced DNA technology to detect abnormal cells in your fecal sample.


Cologuard is a smart option for those who are not yet up to having a colonoscopy.

Cologuard isn’t a diagnostic tool, only a screening tool, and depending on the sample results, your doctor will discuss whether or not you should have a colonoscopy.

And by the way, if you’ve been diagnosed with IBS and suffer from nausea as a result, you should not disregard any alarm symptoms that crop up in the future; after all, IBS doesn’t make a person immune to colon cancer!

Dr. Vladic’s special interests include acid reflux, colitis, colon cancer, GERD, heartburn, IBS, liver disease, obesity, pancreatitis and peptic ulcer, among many others.
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.  


Top image: Shutterstock/9nong