Behind the Bathroom Door: Hemorrhoids vs. Colorectal Cancer

Posted By Author on November 20, 2023

No matter the cause, blood in your stool is an unwelcome observation. But this symptom does not always clearly point toward a single diagnosis. Those suffering from hemorrhoids may notice blood during a trip to the bathroom, but a more serious condition could be to blame.

Patients in the early stages of colorectal cancer often experience rectal bleeding as well – so it’s important to receive an accurate diagnosis from your GI specialist.

Here at Charleston GI, our board certified gastroenterologists have provided some helpful insight.

Read on to learn more about the difference between hemorrhoid and colon cancer symptoms, then schedule an appointment with our Charleston GI doctors at one of our four convenient locations in Summerville, Carnes Crossroads, Mount Pleasant, and West Ashley. No referral needed!

male with hemorrhoids issues, hemorrhoids & colorectal cancer myths

What Are Hemorrhoids? 

When the veins surrounding the anus and rectum (bottom section of the colon) become inflamed and swollen, hemorrhoids are often the result. Two different types may develop, including the following:

  • Internal hemorrhoids: Found in the lower rectum, these are typically painless. If they prolapse, or extend beyond the anus, pain and additional concerns may result.
  • External hemorrhoids: This type forms underneath the skin around the anus, causing discomfort.

Recognizing the Symptoms 

Depending on the type, hemorrhoids can be accompanied by a variety of symptoms. Internal hemorrhoids, for instance, often cause bloody stool. External hemorrhoids, however, often present as hard lumps that are sore and itchy. If you are experiencing any of the following, contact a GI specialist near you:

  • Itching around the anus 
  • Hard, sore lumps 
  • Rectal pain 

Determining the Cause

Hemorrhoids are relatively common, affecting nearly 1 in 20 people. They often result from one of these:

  • Straining during bowel movements 
  • Chronic constipation 
  • Pregnancy 
  • Extended periods of standing 
  • Heavy lifting 
  • Aging 
  • Genetics 
  • Anal canal anatomy 

What Is Colorectal Cancer? 

Colorectal cancer is a type of cancer that impacts either the large intestine (colon) or rectum. Most cases begin as a polyp, or abnormal growth, that develops on the inner lining of the colon or rectum. If ignored, polyps may become more invasive and spread into the blood vessels and lymph nodes. Over time, polyps can develop throughout the body. 

Recognizing the Symptoms 

The most common symptoms of colorectal cancer are fatigue and unexplained or unintentional weight loss. Patients often experience additional symptoms of colon cancer, like these:

  • Abdominal pain/discomfort
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Nausea or vomiting 
  • Bloody stool 
  • Urge to have a bowel movement after just having one 

Are Hemorrhoids and Colorectal Cancer Connected? 

While hemorrhoids and colorectal cancer do share several symptoms, there is no evidence that hemorrhoids cause colorectal cancer. Because hemorrhoids impact many Americans, it is likely that symptoms point to nothing more serious.

To confirm a hemorrhoids diagnosis, your Charleston GI physician will examine your rectum and anus, and may perform one of these tests:

  • Stool guaiac (shows the presence of blood) 
  • Sigmoidoscopy 
  • Anoscopy 

Finding the Right Treatment For You 

Depending on their severity, it is possible to treat hemorrhoids at home. Over-the-counter remedies and simple lifestyle changes may be all that’s needed to ease the discomfort of swollen veins. Your GI specialist may recommend the following:

  • Consuming a higher fiber diet
  • Getting regular, moderate exercise 
  • Taking sitz baths in warm water
  • Using over-the-counter corticosteroid creams 
  • Reducing itching with witch hazel 
  • Taking stool softeners 
  • Wearing cotton undergarments 
  • Wiping with toilet paper free of perfumes or dyes 

If you’re still experiencing unpleasant symptoms after a week or so, our board-certified gastroenterologists can help! Infrared coagulation, a heat treatment, may be used to shrink internal hemorrhoids. Rubber band ligation, a minimally-invasive procedure that involves tying a rubber band around the base of the hemorrhoid, may be performed to cut off the blood flow. After a few days of hemorrhoid banding, the hemorrhoid falls off. 

Experiencing Hemorrhoids? Contact Charleston GI Today! 

If hemorrhoids are causing irritation or impacting your everyday life, don’t suffer in silence! Here at Charleston GI, our board-certified gastroenterologists are experienced in treating a wide variety of conditions – and providing much-needed relief to patients like you!

We have four convenient Charleston area locations to choose from, in West Ashley, Mount Pleasant, Summerville, and Carnes Crossroads. Our Charleston GI doctors are ready 5 days a week to offer you relief.

There’s no referral needed, so schedule your appointment today!

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