Colon Cancer in Women: Signs and Symptoms

The clinical manifestations of colon cancer in women are the same as those in men. Learn more about them below.
Colon Cancer in Women: Signs and Symptoms

Last update: 04 March, 2023

Colon cancer is one of the most common cancers worldwide, affecting men and women almost equally. The main symptoms referred to are related to changes in bowel habits. Unfortunately, they can go unnoticed in women due to other gynecological conditions. We’ll take an in-depth look at colon cancer in women in this article.

The incidence of colorectal carcinoma has increased in recent years, being the second most detected cancer in women in some countries according to studies. Most of these tumors appear in women older than 50 years, that is, after menopause, although the incidence in young women is increasing.

Common symptoms of colon cancer in women

The clinical manifestations that suggest the presence of colon cancer are the same in both men and women. However, all the alterations can be related to discomforts presented during menstruation, so they go unnoticed.

Early detection of colon cancer is essential to improve prognosis, so people should be vigilant for the appearance of colon cancer symptoms. In this sense, the disease can manifest itself through the following signs and symptoms.

Changes in bowel habits

Colon cancer in women can cause changes in bowel habits
Any persistent change in the stool pattern may suggest the presence of diseases in the digestive tract (whether or not they are oncological).

One of the main symptoms that suggests the presence of the disease are changes in bowel habits and evacuation. People can have periods of diarrhea or constipation without any apparent cause. Alternating periods of chronic diarrhea and constipation are very frequent, especially in the presence of large tumors.

Changes in stools can also appear in some cases. People report much thinner stools than usual for a long time. In addition, the color of the stools can change, depending on the presence or absence of blood.

Manifestations such as sudden constipation and diarrhea are frequent during menstruation, due to the action of estrogens in intestinal transit. In this way, they can be looked down upon by younger women.

Abdominal pain and discomfort

Intestinal tumors can alter peristalsis, so colic can manifest itself in colon cancer in women and men. Colic is characterized by a sudden pain, of variable intensity, which can appear several times a day.

Some studies suggest that abdominal pain is one of the most frequent symptoms reported by women, being reported in up to 76.2% of cases. It can be accompanied by other discomforts such as abdominal distention and an increase in the expulsion of flatulence.

Intestinal cramps can be confused with menstrual cramps in women of childbearing age, especially when they coincide with the days of menstrual bleeding. However, women should be vigilant if cramps in the abdominal region appear on other days of the month and if they are very intense.

Blood in the stools

Blood in the stools is one of the most common manifestations of colon cancer. Tumors can invade the capillaries of the mucosa and cause blood to escape into the intestinal lumen. The amount of blood expelled can range from a few drops after a bowel movement to major bleeding that turns the stools black (for tumors higher in the digestive tract).

As for the frequency of this symptom, it may vary depending on the location of the tumor, and it’s more frequent when the neoplasm is located in the rectum. Intestinal bleeding can be one of the most indicative symptoms of colon cancer in women, since it doesn’t tend to be confused with gynecological pathologies. However, it can be due to other causes such as the presence of hemorrhoids.

Weakness and tiredness

Other common symptoms in people with colon cancer are muscle weakness and tiredness. They usually appear in the most advanced stages of cancer when it spreads to other tissues. Weakness is also common when there is massive bleeding, which can lead to the appearance of a condition called anemia.

These cancer symptoms are very general, so they can be confused with a condition called premenstrual syndrome in women. This syndrome is characterized by the appearance of multiple physical and cognitive symptoms before the first day of menstruation.

Rare symptoms of colon cancer in women

The least common symptoms of colon cancer usually appear in the more advanced stages of the disease. They are exactly the same in both sexes and don’t tend to be confused with gynecological pathologies. These clinical manifestations are very general and are due in large part to the appearance of complications.


Cancerous tumors located in the colon often rupture the intestinal wall, which can cause an abscess to appear. Abscesses are accumulations of pus product of bacterial proliferation, and fever is one of its symptoms.

Bubbles in urine

The presence of bubbles in the urine is a symptom known as pneumaturia. It usually appears when the cancer invades the urinary bladder, which generates the passage of intestinal gases to it and its subsequent expulsion when urinating.


The subjective sensation of respiratory distress, also known as dyspnea, is a rare manifestation of colon cancer. Respiratory problems usually appear when there’s metastasis of the cancer to the lungs, preventing their proper functioning.

Headaches and bone pain

Colon cancer in women can metastasize
Bone pain caused by colon cancer metastasis can occur in patients with late diagnosis of the disease. For this reason, going to the specialist early is of great importance.

Colon cancer in women can easily invade the lumbar vertebrae, which explains the appearance of pain in the bones in the area. The disease can also affect the central nervous system and peripheral nerves, causing headaches and other neurological manifestations such as confusion or vision changes.

Possible complications of colon cancer

Unfortunately, this malignant neoplasm is capable of generating the appearance of multiple complications in people who suffer from it. Most of these complications appear when the disease has affected other organs or in the presence of large tumors.

One of the most frequent complications is anemia, which appears as a result of long-term intestinal bleeding. The main manifestations are dizziness, muscle weakness, fatigue, dry mouth, and paleness. Other frequent complications that can appear as a result of colon cancer are the following:

  • Intestinal obstruction
  • Jaundice
  • Intestinal abscesses

When to visit a doctor?

Everyone should consult a doctor when noticing any suspicious manifestation, especially if it’s associated with sudden weight loss. Women must take special care not to confuse the symptoms of colon cancer with discomforts associated with menstruation, so they must pay attention to the time of appearance and the duration of the same.

Changes in bowel habits, rectal bleeding, and abdominal discomfort should be reported to a specialist doctor as soon as possible. For its part, the American Cancer Society recommends that people over 45 have tests to rule out the disease at least once a year until age 75.

Common symptoms that should not be underestimated

Colon cancer in women generates the same symptoms as in men, but they go unnoticed and are associated with other more frequent conditions. Unfortunately, this fact causes women to receive a late diagnosis, which worsens the prognosis of the disease.

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