Colorectal Cancer Not Uncommon in Women

Contributed by Roberta Hunter, MD

When you think of women and cancer you may think of breast or ovarian cancer but according to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States.

Colorectal cancer is not uncommon among women.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths for both men and women with nearly 50,000 deaths expected this year alone. Thankfully, the death rate from colorectal cancer has been dropping in both sexes for more than 20 years and that’s likely due to screening. Screening is allowing more colorectal cancers to be found earlier when the disease is easier to cure.

Importance of Colonoscopy

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and we wanted to remind you of the importance of getting screened for colorectal cancer. A colonoscopy is the best screening test available for colorectal cancer. This procedure allows a doctor to look at the inner lining of the large intestine (rectum and colon) by using a thin, flexible tube with a tiny video camera and a light called a colonoscope to look at the colon. By doing so, this helps find ulcers, colon polyps, tumors and areas of inflammation or bleeding. Biopsies are often performed during a colonoscopy to check for cancerous cells.

Who Should Get Screened

Any adult can have colorectal cancer but this type of cancer is more commonly found in people age 50 and older. Those with a personal or family history of this cancer, have polyps in their colon or rectum, or those with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are more likely to have colorectal cancer. A high-fat diet, being overweight, smoking and being inactive can also increase the risk of having colorectal cancer.

In the average risk individual, a screening colonoscopy can be done at age 50 and every ten years thereafter. This interval of surveillance however may change depending on findings on the initial colonoscopy, family history and other personal conditions. Colonoscopy isn’t the only test available to screen for colorectal cancer. Talk to your doctor about the different screenings and which one is best for you. And remember, cancer doesn’t discriminate against age or race so please encourage the women and men in your life to have regular screenings. It may just save your or a loved one’s life.

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