What Are the Symptoms of Colon Cancer in Females?

Colon cancer is caused when there is an out-of-control overgrowth of cells in the colon (large intestine). Colon cancer symptoms in women who are premenopausal may have abdominal bloating, cramping, and pain.
Colon cancer is caused when there is an out-of-control overgrowth of cells in the colon (large intestine). Colon cancer symptoms in women who are premenopausal may have abdominal bloating, cramping, and pain. 

Colon cancer is cancer that occurs when cells in the colon (large intestine) grow abnormally and out of control.  

Premenopausal women may have abdominal bloating, cramping, and pain during their menstrual cycle, and these can also be symptoms of colon cancer. Any female who has abnormal symptoms should see their doctor to determine if they need to be screened for colon cancer

Symptoms of colon cancer in females and males include: 

  • Changes in bowel habits that last for more than a few days
  • Feeling the need to have a bowel movement that's not relieved by having one
  • Rectal bleeding with bright red blood
  • Blood in the stool
    • Stool may appear dark brown or black
  • Abdominal bloating, cramping, or pain
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Low red blood cell counts (anemia) if the colon cancer bleeds into the digestive tract
  • Yellowing skin and eyes (jaundice) if the cancer has spread to the liver
  • Trouble breathing if the cancer has spread to the lungs

How Is Colon Cancer Diagnosed?

Colon cancer is often found during screening tests, in which people who have no symptoms are checked for cancer.  

There are two main groups of colorectal screening tests: 

  • Stool-based tests 
    • The stool (feces) is checked for signs of cancer
    • Less invasive and easier to perform, but need to be done more often
      • Fecal immunochemical test (FIT)
      • Guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT)
      • Stool DNA test (also known as a multitargeted stool DNA test [MT-sDNA] or FIT-DNA)
  • Visual (structural) exams

Any abnormal test result on any test other than a colonoscopy should be followed up with a colonoscopy.

  • Tests used to diagnose colon cancer include: 
  • Diagnostic colonoscopy
  • Proctoscopy
  • Biopsy
  • Imaging tests 
  • Computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan
  • Ultrasound 
    • Abdominal ultrasound
    • Endorectal ultrasound
    • Intraoperative ultrasound
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
    • Endorectal MRI
  • Chest X-ray
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan
  • Angiography

What Is the Treatment for Colon Cancer?

Treatment for colon cancer may involve one or more of the following: 

  • Surgery 
    • Polypectomy and local excision for early-stage colon cancers 
    • Colectomy: surgery to remove all or part of the colon
    • Colostomy or ileostomy
  • Ablation and embolization, used for metastases (spread) of colon cancer to the lungs or liver
    • Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) 
    • Microwave ablation (MWA)
    • Ethanol (alcohol) ablation
    • Cryosurgery (cryotherapy or cryoablation)
    • Arterial embolization (also called trans-arterial embolization or TAE) 
    • Chemoembolization (also called trans-arterial chemoembolization or TACE) 
    • Radioembolization 
  • Chemotherapy 
  • Radiation therapy (more often used to treat rectal cancer but may be used in combination with chemotherapy for colon cancer)
  • Targeted therapy 
    • Drugs that target blood vessel formation (VEGF)
    • Drugs that target cancer cells with epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)  changes
    • Drugs that target cells with BRAF gene changes
      • BRAF inhibitors: encorafenib (Braftovi) 
    • Kinase inhibitor
  • Immunotherapy using immune checkpoint inhibitors
    • PD-1 inhibitors
      • Pembrolizumab (Keytruda) 
      • Nivolumab (Opdivo)
    • CTLA-4 inhibitor

What Causes Colon Cancer?

Colon cancer is caused by cells in the colon growing abnormally and out of control. The reason for this occurring is unknown. 

Risk factors for developing colon cancer include:

  • Lifestyle-related factors
    • Being overweight or obese 
    • Not being physically active 
    • Certain types of diets 
      • A diet high in red meats (such as beef, pork, lamb, or liver) and processed meats (such as hot dogs and some luncheon meats) 
      • Cooking meats at very high temperatures (frying, broiling, or grilling) 
      • Low blood levels of vitamin D 
    • Smoking 
    • Alcohol use 
  • Age over 50 years
  • Personal history of colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer 
  • Personal history of inflammatory bowel disease 
  • Family history of colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps 
  • Having an inherited syndrome 
    • Lynch syndrome (hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer or HNPCC) 
    • Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) 
      • Attenuated FAP (AFAP)
      • Gardner syndrome 
      • Turcot syndrome 
    • Rare inherited syndromes linked to colorectal cancer
  • Racial and ethnic background 
    • African Americans have the highest rates of colorectal cancer in the U.S. 
    • Jews of Eastern European descent (Ashkenazi Jews) have one of the highest colorectal cancer risks in the world
  • Having type 2 diabetes 
  • Factors with unclear effects on colorectal cancer risk
    • Night shift work 
    • Previous treatment for certain cancers, including testicular and prostate cancers