How To Recognize And Treat Colorectal Cancer In Women 

colorectal cancer

March 1 marks National Dress in Blue Day. On the first Friday of March, those who are afflicted with colon cancer – along with their allies and supporters – wear blue to bring awareness to this disease and promote Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Though highly preventable, colon cancer is often a silent and deadly disease. While colorectal cancer affects both men and women, there are specific nuances and considerations regarding its impact on women that we should be aware of.  

What is colorectal cancer? 

Colorectal cancer, often referred to as bowel cancer or colon cancer, originates in the colon or rectum. It may start as benign growths called polyps, which can become cancerous if not detected and removed. The disease ranks as the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women and is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States

Colorectal cancer in women 

While historically seen as a disease primarily affecting men, colorectal cancer is increasingly affecting women. In fact, recent studies suggest that women may be at higher risk of dying from colorectal cancer than men due to factors such as hormonal differences and unique symptoms that may delay diagnosis.  

What are the symptoms of colon cancer in women? 

It’s important to identify the signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer in women to identify the disease and treat it effectively. Though the symptoms noted below may seem just part of normal gastrointestinal distress or indigestion, it’s important to take note of them as they can signal the early stages of colorectal cancer. Symptoms may include: 

Changes in bowel habits 

  • Some of us may find it uncomfortable to pay attention to or discuss our bowel habits. However, if you notice changes — such as persistent diarrhea, constipation, or stool consistency – mention these to your doctor right away. It’s important to screen for and identify (or rule out) colon cancer when these changes occur.  
  • Rectal bleeding or blood in stool  
  • Again, this may be uncomfortable to discuss, but it’s important to note unexplained bleeding or blood in your stool and make an appointment with your primary care provider to investigate it further. 
  • Abdominal discomfort 
  • Persistent abdominal pain, cramping, or bloating may signal colorectal issues. 
  • Unexplained weight loss 
  • Significant and unexplained weight loss – without changes in diet or exercise – warrants medical attention. 
  • Fatigue or weakness 
  • If you feel more tired and rundown than usual, make an appointment with your doctor. Chronic fatigue or weakness not attributable to other factors should be evaluated. 

What are the treatment options for colorectal cancer? 

Treatment for colorectal cancer varies depending on the stage and individual patient factors, but often includes a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and targeted drug therapy. Early detection significantly improves treatment outcomes, highlighting the importance of regular screenings and awareness of symptoms. 

Screening guidelines for women 

Given the increasing incidence of colorectal cancer in younger populations, screening guidelines have evolved to recommend earlier initiation of screenings. While guidelines may vary slightly, most medical organizations recommend regular colorectal cancer screening starting at age 45 for average-risk individuals. However, women with certain risk factors, such as a family history of colorectal cancer or inflammatory bowel disease, may need to begin screening earlier

As we observe Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, it’s essential to recognize that colorectal cancer impacts women uniquely. Increased awareness, early detection, and proactive screening are crucial steps in reducing the burden of this disease on women’s health.  

By understanding the signs and symptoms, advocating for timely screenings, and supporting ongoing research and education efforts, we can make significant strides in the fight against colorectal cancer for women and all individuals at risk. Let’s empower ourselves and our communities to prioritize colorectal health and save lives. 

About the author
FemmePharma started as a pharmaceutical research and development company more than 20 years ago. We’ve been reinventing women’s healthcare ever since. Please consult your healthcare practitioner to decide which product best meets your needs.

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