Unnoticed signs of colorectal cancer in women

Unnoticed signs of colorectal cancer in women

Women may be ignoring the warning signs of a  form of cancer and not even know it.

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer among men and women in the U.S. and is treatable but it can be fatal. It causes the second most deaths of any cancer, claiming around 50,000 lives every year.

Overall, colorectal cancer rates are dropping, thanks to early detection in older adults. However, among those 50 and younger, cases have been rising since the mid-1990s.

The risk factors for men and women are the same: being overweight, being physically inactive, smoking, drinking alcohol and eating a diet rich in red meat.

In its early stages, colorectal cancer may have no noticeable symptoms. But when they do appear, both men and women may experience abdominal pain, bowel issues, bleeding, fatigue and unexplained weight loss.

Symptoms can give mixed signals

For women, those signs can also signal other health issues and prevent an early cancer diagnosis. Bloating and bleeding are common gynecological issues for premenopausal women. Sudden weight loss can be linked to many health issues, including inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, depression, hyperthyroidism and neurological disorders.

Dr. Nadia Huq, gastroenterologist with Aurora Health Care, says it’s important to listen to your body.

“Often times, women won’t prioritize their own health and may be prone to downplaying what could be symptoms of colorectal cancer,” said Dr. Huq. “If you are experiencing a new symptom such as rectal bleeding, a drastic change in bowel habits or if a family member has had high-risk polyps or colon cancer, be sure to talk with your doctor.”

Steps women can take to prevent colorectal cancer

All adults 45 and older should get screened annually for colon cancer, including a colonoscopy. In women, some studies have shown that taking estrogen and progesterone after menopause may reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer. However, that may also increase risk of heart disease, blood clots and other cancers.

But doing your best to prevent colorectal cancer meshes with other keys to living a healthy live. Dr. Huq says it’s important to watch your diet, don’t smoke, avoid alcohol and stay active.

Want to learn more about your risk for colorectal cancer? Take a free online quiz here.

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  1. Insurance Companies only allow you to have a colonoscopy every 5 to 10 years, which is extremely unsafe, especially with all the carcinogens that are in our food. Insurance Companies do not care if you have a family history of colon cancer. My mother had polyps every year then the Insurance Company changed their policy to every 5 years if you have a history of polyps, every 10 years if no polyp was found. My mother got to die because of the Insurance Company refusing to give her a Colonoscopy because it wasn’t 5 years yet. Screening for Cancer every 5 or 10 years is extremely irresponsible of the Insurance Companies.
    Thanks for the information but what good is it if the Insurance Companies refuse Colonoscopy’s very year to high risk patients.

  2. My thoughts and concerns are exactly the same as Cheryl C.

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About the Author

Matt Queen
Matt Queen

Matt Queen, health enews contributor, is a communication coordinator at Aurora Health Care in Milwaukee. He is a former TV sports anchor and journalist with extensive public relations experience across the health care spectrum. Outside of work, Matt enjoys watching sports (of course), cooking, gardening, golfing and spending time with his wife and two young children.