Differences between rectal cancer & hemorrhoids

Updated July 19, 2017

According to the National Cancer Institute rectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer in both men and women in the United States. Even though some of the symptoms of rectal cancer and haemorrhoids may be similar, these two conditions are very different.

Colorectal Cancer

Your rectum is the last several inches of your large intestine. Colorectal cancer occurs when cancer cells are found in the rectum or colon. You may have just a few cells or you may have developed a tumour that creates a blockage of the rectum. Rectal cancer can be very serious or life threatening.


Haemorrhoids occur when the veins that surround your anus become swollen and inflamed. They are caused by straining to move a stool, pregnancy, ageing, or chronic constipation and diarrhoea. They are usually not life threatening.


Symptoms of rectal cancer include diarrhoea or constipation that does not go away, dark blood in the stool, narrow stools, gas and cramps, weight loss, fatigue, and vomiting. The most common symptom of haemorrhoids is blood covering your stool, blood on the toilet paper when you wipe, pain when you have a bowel movement or hard lumps around your anus.


To treat rectal cancer you may undergo surgery to remove tumours or damaged sections of the intestine, radiation therapy, chemo therapy or a combination of all three. Haemorrhoids are treated to relieve the symptoms. There are many over the counter creams and suppositories that you can use to relieve the pressure and pain. If the haemorrhoids are bad surgery may be explored but is not common.


Keep your stools soft by adding fibre and water to your diet. Do not hold in your bowl movements for long periods of time as this creates pressure on your rectum. Take steps to live a healthy lifestyle to help prevent cancer. If you are concerned about your risk for either rectal cancer or haemorrhoids see your doctor.

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About the Author

Mary Anne Ott is a cancer patient navigator in Ohio. She has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Wright State University. Ott worked in the banking industry for six years as a personal banker and assistant branch manager before pursuing a career in health care.