Colon Cancer Symptoms in Women (Doctor Explains)

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Symptoms of colon cancer in women are often non-specific in the early stages. They include altered bowel habits (diarrhea or constipation), the blood or black stool passage, abdominal pain, a sense of mass in the rectum, anorexia, fatigue, and anemia.

Today, we will discuss colon cancer symptoms in women in detail. Also, you will learn some insights about the prevalence and the risks of colon cancer in women.

Common Colon cancer symptoms in women include:

  • Constipation, diarrhea, or both.
  • Blood in stool.
  • A sense of mass inside the rectum.
  • Fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, and palpitation (symptoms of anemia).
  • Abdominal pain. 
  • Unexplained weight loss. 
  • Other less frequent symptoms include nausea, anorexia, fever, bone pain, etc. 

Incidence: How common is colon cancer in women?

 
Colon cancer symptoms in women are generally not specific. This leads to missed or delayed diagnosis in many cases. So, understanding the age risks and colon cancer risk factors is important.
Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in women and men in the united states (reference).

Women can get colorectal cancer, but the incidence is very low. Over 90% of the new colon cancer cases are above the age of 50.

The incidence of colon cancer in young women is very low. However, the risk increases gradually in older women. Here are some statistics on colon cancer:

  • Your overall lifetime risk of colon cancer is about 4% for women and 4.3 for men.
  • In 2021, the American cancer society estimated about 104K cases of colon cancer and 45K cases of rectal cancer.
  • The rate of new cases has been dropping since the mid-eighties in OLDER people due to screening programs and improvement in lifestyle habits.
  • Unfortunately, The rate is increasing among younger people (including young women).
  • The overall risk of colon or rectal cancer is very low, below the age of forty.
  • The number of cases between 15-35 years ranges from 1.3 to 3.6 per 100,000. This number jumps to about 88.5 cases per 100,000 above the age of 60.

The image below is from Cancer.gov, illustrating the lower risk of colon cancer in young women and men.

Risk factors of colon cancer in women

The risk factors in more youthful women include:

  • Family history of colon or rectal cancer (a significant risk factor of colorectal cancer in young women.
  • Obesity.
  • Eating red and processed meat.
  • Diabetes Mellitus at a young age.
  • Alcohol.
  • Tobacco smoking.
  • Physical inactivity.

Colon cancer symptoms in women:

Unfortunately, colorectal cancer may not have symptoms or signs in the early stages. Moreover, the signs of colon cancer in young women can be vague and non-specific.

For example, constipation and diarrhea are the most common symptoms of colorectal cancer. However, doctors attribute them to various conditions in younger women, such as irritable bowel syndrome.

Learn more:

1 . Constipation or Diarrhea are the most common symptoms.

 

The most common symptom of colon cancer in women is unexplained bowel habit changes (chronic or intermittent changes in bowel habits, such as constipation or diarrhea).

However, not every diarrhea or constipation is due to colon cancer, especially if you’re a young woman. Persistent or unexplained diarrhea for long periods is an indication to see your doctor.

The most common cause of recurrent abdominal pain and bowel changes in young women are benign gut conditions such as IBS and food intolerances.

So, don’t jump to false conclusions and anxiety because of your diarrhea. Instead, ask your doctor about the most suitable way to exclude dangerous causes such as colon cancer.

Studies estimate that over 75% of patients with colorectal cancer suffer from bowel changes (reference).

 

2. Blood in the stool.

 

About half (50%) of the cases of colorectal cancer pass blood with stool (reference). However, the blood in the stool can be minute and unnoticeable.

In other cases, it can be seen as:

As a young woman, you should notice your poop color changes. Call your doctor if you see any evidence of blood in the stool.

 

3. A sense of mass inside the rectum

 

In the sigmoid colon cancer and cancers of the rectum, you may feel a mass blocking the rectum. The mass can be felt in the lower left abdomen in advanced stages.

The condition is also common; about 25% of people with colorectal cancer have a sensation of a mass blocking the rectum (reference).

 

4. Anemia: Fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, and fast heartbeats.

 

The colon cancer mass often ulcerates and bleeds. You can notice bleeding as a black or red color in the stool.

However, in many cases, the blood in the stool is not noticeable. Minor bleeding for extended periods will lead to anemia.

Unexplained anemia can be a sign of colon cancer in young women. Common symptoms and signs of anemia include:

  • Easy fatigue.
  • Shortness of breath on exertion.
  • Fast heartbeats.
  • Dizziness.
  • Lack of concentration.
  • Pale lips and hands.

5. Abdominal pain.

Unfortunately, colon cancer is often non-painful in its early stages. In addition, other symptoms and signs occur more frequently with colon cancer than abdominal pain.

Isolated abdominal pain is present in only 3.8% of cases of colon cancer. However, it is always a late sign and associated with other more significant symptoms such as blood in stool and changes in bowel habits.

6. Weight loss.

Weight loss without trying is a red flag that something is happening. Many cancer (including colon cancer) can manifest with unintentional weight loss in young women.

Consult your doctor if you lose more than 5% of your body weight in less than six months without trying.

7. Other symptoms of colon cancer in women.

Other less frequent signs of colon cancer in young females include:

  • Nausea.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Nighttime abdominal pain.
  • Unexplained fever.
  • Metastatic colon cancer can present with various symptoms, such as liver pain, bone pain, and loss of consciousness.
  • Sings of complicated colorectal cancer include intestinal obstruction (severe abdominal distention, constipation, and vomiting), Infection, or fistula formation.