Colorectal cancer is the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer in women in India. Colon cancer starts as a tiny growth in the inner wall of the colon. These growths are called polyps. Polyps are usually noncancerous but when a cancerous polyp does form, cancer cells can move into the lining of the colon and/or rectum and spread. In its early stages, colon cancer may have no noticeable symptoms.
- Constipation, diarrhoea or other changes in bowel habits
- Blood in stool or rectal bleeding
- Abdominal pain or cramps
- Unexplained weight loss
- Fatigue, weakness or reduced energy level
Colon cancer symptoms vs. menstruation symptoms
Some symptoms of colon cancer may be easily mistaken for menstrual symptoms. For example, feeling worn-out as a result of anaemia or experiencing abdominal cramps are common symptoms of both colorectal cancer and premenstrual syndrome (PMS). It is important to speak to the doctor if you are experiencing these symptoms when your periods are not expected or if these are unusual to you.
Some of the risk factors affecting colorectal cancer in women are:
- Increased age
- Previous history of polyps
- Family history of colon cancer or polyps
- Radiation treatment
- Unhealthy lifestyle
- Genetic predisposition
Colorectal cancer screening is suggested for people over the age of 50 years (45 years for women with increased risk). A colon cancer diagnosis starts with an annual sigmoidoscopy. If the test results are positive, a colonoscopy is recommended. During a colonoscopy, a biopsy may be done of any polyps that may be discovered during the test. The polyps are analysed to check for the presence of cancer cells. If the polyps are cancerous, a CT scan can help understand the extent of the cancer spread.
The three main types of colon cancer treatment are surgery to remove the cancerous polyps, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.