Women's Health Matters

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Colorectal Cancer

Cancers found in the colon or rectum are collectively referred to as colorectal cancers.

This is a relatively common form of cancer: in 2015, an estimated 25,000 Canadians were diagnosed with the disease. Although not traditionally thought of as a women's cancer, it is the third most common cancer in women after lung and breast cancer. The Canadian Cancer Society reports that 1 in 16 Canadian women will develop colorectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer is one of the most preventable kinds of cancer. When detected early, it is curable about 90 percent of the time. Many colorectal cancers are not detected in the early stages but are detected only after symptoms develop. Unfortunately, it was estimated that 9,400 would die from colorectal cancer in 2017.

People are often uncomfortable discussing their bowel movements with their doctors, and wary of the tests used to screen for colorectal cancer. Physicians may also feel awkward broaching this subject.

It is recommended that all adults over 50 years of age and individuals with known risk factors, such as a family history of colorectal cancer, get screened regularly as this can reduce the rate of death. 

People over 50 years of age should talk to their doctor about screening, and see their doctor as soon as possible, if they have any of the following symptoms:

  • blood in the stool or on the toilet paper
  • diarrhea, constipation or narrowing of the stool that persists
  • a persistent feeling of needing to have a bowel movement
  • persistent cramping or abdominal pain
  • sudden unexplained weight loss or lack of appetite
  • unusual fatigue
  • vomiting

Learn more:

Overview | Diagnosing colorectal cancer | Screening tests | Stages of colorectal cancer |

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  • A publication of:
  • Women's College Hospital