Colon cancer in females has many of the same symptoms as colon cancer in males. However, it may be difficult to distinguish symptoms of colon cancer from gynecologic symptoms, such as pelvic pain.
A note about sex and gender
Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.
Colon cancer is cancer that develops in the colon, the longest part of the large intestine that attaches to the rectum. Colon cancer and rectal cancer make up colorectal cancer.
According to the National Cancer Institute’s
This article looks at the symptoms, risk factors, and outcomes of colon cancer in females.
Colon cancer is very similar across the sexes, but some differences do exist.
While the rates of colorectal cancer in females are lower, they may be more likely to experience aggressive colon cancer.
The symptoms of colon cancer are the same regardless of sex. They
- unintended weight loss
- abdominal cramping
- black-colored stool, indicating blood
- bright red blood in stool
- rectal bleeding
- fatigue or lethargy
- persistent need to have a bowel movement even after having one
- unusual bowel changes lasting for more than a few days
Colorectal cancer does not always present with symptoms, especially in the early stages.
The symptoms of colon cancer can be mistaken for common pelvic sensations, such as those that relate to the female reproductive system.
Those living with conditions such as endometriosis, for example, may be accustomed to intense cramping and pelvic discomfort. They may dismiss persistent symptoms because they have already received an endometriosis diagnosis.
Can some symptoms of menstruation mimic colon cancer symptoms?
Symptoms of menstruation that can mimic colon cancer
- pelvic pain
- lower back pain
Some people experience heavy menstrual bleeding, which may also lead to anemia.
Can symptoms of colon cancer be similar to those of perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause?
The transition of menopause is a time during which females may miss the signs of colorectal cancer.
Menopause signifies a period in life when hormone balances change, fertility declines, and monthly menstruation eventually ends. It includes perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause.
According to a 2021
The researchers found that the risk was greater for those with endometrial and ovarian cancer than those with cervical cancer.
Due to how close a female’s reproductive system is to the intestinal tract, those who have received a gynecological cancer diagnosis may also require screening for colon cancer.
The risk factors for colorectal cancer
- advanced age
- inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), such as Crohn’s disease
- family history of colorectal cancer or polyps
- Lynch syndrome — an inherited condition that increases the risk of cancer
- a diet that does not contain fruits and vegetables
- a diet that is low in fiber and high in fat
- a diet high in processed meats
- tobacco use
- alcohol consumption
- overweight and obesity
Females may be more prone to certain risk factors. For example, a 2021
Certain inflammatory bowel diseases may also be more prevalent in females. A 2020
Healthcare professionals treat colon cancer on the basis of its stage. Treatment options
The 5-year relative survival rates vary depending on the stage:
|Stage||5-year relative survival rate|
|localized, meaning the cancer has not spread||92.2%|
|regional, meaning the cancer has spread beyond the colon to nearby lymph nodes and structures||73.1%|
|distant, meaning the cancer has spread to more distant parts of the body||16%|
Diagnosis starts with a thorough medical exam and assessment of colorectal cancer risks.
On the basis of a person’s age, risk factors, and the presence of symptoms, a doctor can recommend a variety of tests to help screen for colon cancer.
If a doctor notes cancer or suspicious areas during screening tests such as a colonoscopy, a surgeon may perform a biopsy or remove the suspicious area at the same time.
Healthcare professionals recommend routine colon cancer screening starting at
Colon cancer in females presents similarly to colon cancer in males. The symptoms are universal, although females may have the added challenge of differentiating colon cancer symptoms from menstrual discomfort.
Females may also be more likely to experience certain colon cancer risk factors, such as obesity, and can be more prone to developing right-sided colon cancer, which is often more aggressive.