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.
“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.
About the Author
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.