Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Colorectal Cancer and Women: What You Need to Know

Colorectal cancer is the 2nd most common cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. per the American Cancer Society (ACS.) It is also the 3rd most common cause of new cancer cases diagnosed annually among U.S. men and women.  Among women, the lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is about 1 in 25.

Since many colorectal cancer symptoms in reproductive-aged females may be misconstrued as menstrual or menopausal issues, it’s especially important for women to remain vigilant about optimizing and maintaining their colorectal health.

March is designated Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Your local Capital Women’s Care team of women’s health professionals shares vital information about colorectal cancer risk factors, related women-specific symptoms plus screening recommendations and test options to help you optimize your colorectal health.

Colorectal Cancer Risk Factors

Colorectal cancer risk increases as you age.  Additional risk factors include having

Lifestyle factors that may contribute to an increased risk of colorectal cancer include:

Overall, the lifetime risk of developing colon cancer is slightly higher for men (4.3%) than for women (4%) in the U.S.

Colorectal Cancer Symptoms in Women

Symptoms of colon cancer are often the same for women and men, but some symptoms presenting in women may be mistaken for specific gynecological or menstrual issues, including:

  • changes to bowel habits, diarrhea, and constipation (also common during menstruation.)
  • abdominal cramping that could be mistaken for menstrual cramps.
  • feelings of tiredness that could be dismissed as a symptom of premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

Early symptoms of colorectal cancer in women include:

  • bloody stools
  • unintentional weight loss
  • changes in bowel habits
  • and abdominal pain or cramping.

Later stage symptoms of colorectal cancer in women include:

  • spread of cancer to area lymph nodes or the liver, lungs or brain or in some instances the bones
  • tenesmus, a recurring, often painful urge to defecate, without passing any or very little stool
  • and bowel obstructions.

Women who still experience menstrual cycles or are perimenopausal need to make note of when symptoms occur and if they align in timing with their monthly menstrual cycle. If you have questions or concerns, talk to your healthcare practitioner to see if colorectal cancer screening is appropriate for you.

The median age of colon cancer diagnosis in women is 71 years, compared to 67 years in men. When you combine colon and rectal cancer statistics, the median age of diagnosis is 69 years for women and 66 years for men.

However, the number of people under age 50 diagnosed with colorectal cancer has steadily increased. Between 2012 and 2016, the incidence of colorectal cancer increased by 2% every year in those under 50 years of age and 1% every year in those aged 50 to 64 years.

The American Cancer Society recommends women and men with an average risk for colon cancer begin regular colon cancer screening at age 45 years. If you have risk factors like family or personal colon cancer history, initiating earlier colorectal cancer screening is recommended. Talk with your healthcare professional for screening guidelines if you have greater colorectal cancer risk.

Colorectal Cancer Screening

Screening allows healthcare providers to find colon cancer even if you aren’t experiencing symptoms. Colon cancer often begins with polyps, which are abnormal growths within the colon. Screening tests, like stool tests, sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy, can help your doctor locate and remove polyps before they become cancerous and pose a serious threat to your health.

Regular screening also supports early colorectal cancer detection, when treatments, prognoses and outcomes are most effective and favorable.

Colorectal cancer is one of the few health issues that you can avoid through appropriate proactive screening recommendations.

On-time screening can save your life -- it’s important to begin regular screening based on your personal and family health history as recommended by your doctor.

Your Capital Women’s Care team of healthcare professionals is here to answer your questions or concerns about colorectal health, colorectal cancer screening options or any other women’s health issue. Our dedicated doctors, nurses and support staff prioritize providing you and your family with comprehensive healthcare, so you enjoy a long, quality life.

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Our Mission

The providers of Capital Women's Care seek the highest quality medical and ethical standard in an environment that nurtures the spirit of caring for every woman.


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