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Colorectal Health

Is It Hemorrhoids, Colorectal Cancer, or Something Else?

hemorrhoids-crc-colorectal cancer-polyps-symptoms
hemorrhoids-crc-colorectal cancer-polyps-symptoms

Even though some of the symptoms of hemorrhoids and colorectal cancer (CRC) are similar, it’s important to understand that they are two different conditions. Hemorrhoids by themselves are not a sign of CRC, but it is vital to know the similarities and differences so you can stay in control of your health. 

Both hemorrhoids and colorectal cancer can cause bleeding from the anus. Bleeding caused by hemorrhoids is usually bright red and occurs during or after a bowel movement. CRC-related bleeding can be either dark or bright red and can occur at any time. 

Persistent bowel discomfort may be another symptom that is hard to differentiate. While it may be a sign of either hemorrhoids or CRC, it could also be caused by inflammatory bowel disease or a variety of other medical conditions. The only way to be certain is to speak to your healthcare provider right away. 

Untreated hemorrhoids can lead to infection and other health complications, while untreated CRC can lead to the spreading of cancer and even death. The good news is that both hemorrhoids and CRC are highly treatable. 

CRC has high survivorship rates if detected early, and hemorrhoids can be easily treated with over-the-counter medications or simple procedures. It is imperative that you speak to your doctor if experiencing symptoms of either condition. 

Breaking down stigmas 

We understand that talking about your bowels can be uncomfortable. Still, we know that the consequences of leaving symptoms unaddressed can be life-threatening. 

Hemorrhoids are a highly common condition experienced by millions of people each year. Additionally, colorectal cancer is the fourth most diagnosed cancer in the United States. It’s about time we broke down the stigma of talking about things that are all too commonplace.

While hemorrhoids are not a sign of CRC, some signs and symptoms of both may overlap, making it important to seek medical care right away. Read on for symptoms of each.

What are hemorrhoids?

Hemorrhoids are a common condition that affect about half of all people by age 50. Although hemorrhoids are usually harmless, some worry that they may be a sign of colorectal cancer. While certain symptoms of hemorrhoids and colorectal cancer do overlap, it’s important to know how they are different, and how to take care of our bodies if experiencing symptoms.

Also known as piles, hemorrhoids occur when blood vessels in the anus and/or lower rectum become swollen and inflamed. They can occur both internally and externally. 

The most common causes of hemorrhoids include:

  • Weakening tissues that occur with age
  • Straining during bowel movements
  • Chronic constipation or diarrhea
  • Frequently lifting heavy objects
  • Sitting for long periods of time
  • Low-fiber diets
  • Pregnancy
  • Obesity

Hemorrhoids cause a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Lumps near your anus
  • Anal ache or pain
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Rectal itching
  • Discomfort

While hemorrhoids can be uncomfortable, they are usually not serious. Hemorrhoids can be treated with lifestyle changes, over-the-counter medications, and — in rare cases — medical procedures.

What is colorectal cancer? 

CRC is a type of cancer that affects the colon or rectum. It usually starts from a growth or polyp, developing into cancer over time. CRC is a serious condition that can be life-threatening if not detected and treated early. 

Most cases of CRC occur in people ages 45 and older, but the disease is increasingly affecting younger people. Each year, about 150,000 Americans are diagnosed with this disease and more than 50,000 die.

Colorectal cancer may develop without symptoms, or symptoms may include: 

  • Persistent abdominal discomfort
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Changing bowel habits
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Rectal bleeding

Unlike most cancers, CRC is often preventable with screening and highly treatable when detected early. To learn more about your personal risk and screening options, Colorectal Cancer Alliance offers a free, easy screening quiz at

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