Stop Colorectal Cancer

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Why Are Younger Women Susceptible?

Q. Ninety percent of colon cancers are found in people 50 and over, so we know that after you turn 50 you should get screened. But recent reports show an increase in colon cancers found in younger women. Any idea why?

Well, first, that's right. You should get a colonoscopy at age 50, and every 10 years thereafter. If you have polyps, it's every three to five years.

For women, screening at 50 is an important issue, especially because there have been a lot of studies that suggest we should be doing screening in women earlier, maybe at 45.

The other phenomenon that I've been seeing, and I'm not sure exactly what the numbers are but just anecdotally in my practice, is women as young as in their 30s being diagnosed -- and with no family history. It's really frightening because we're not sure what's responsible. And if you don't have any of the risk factors, you're not going to come in earlier to be screened. I have a colleague, also a gastroenterologist, who was diagnosed with colon cancer at 36. She went under the radar and didn't fit into any screening guidelines.

The important thing is to not ignore symptoms. The alarm symptoms are blood in the stool, weird abdominal pain, a change in how often you have to go to the bathroom, anemia, and unexplained weight loss. Talk to your doctor. If you have any of these symptoms or are otherwise high-risk, your insurance will cover a colonoscopy, even if you're way younger than 50.

Continued on page 3:  What Makes You High-Risk?


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