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Women Need This Screening as Much as Men

When you think of colorectal cancer, you may think of it as something that happens mostly to men. But women are just as much at risk for this disease. Overall, the lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is about 1 in 22 for men and 1 in 24 for women. It is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in both men and women in the U.S., excluding skin cancers.

When found early, colorectal cancer is treatable and can often be cured. A colonoscopy is considered the best way to find colorectal cancer in its early stages when treatment can be most effective.

Screenings for colorectal cancer can also help to prevent the disease.

“Colorectal cancer can begin as a growth on the inside wall of the colon or rectum. These polyps can develop into cancer over time,” said Dr. Amit Choksi, a gastroenterologist on the medical staff at Maury Regional Medical Center. “A screening colonoscopy allows a physician to view the inside of the colon and remove polyps before they develop into cancer.”

Amit A. Choksi, M.D.
is a specialist in gastroenterology on the medical staff at Maury Regional Medical Center. He is associated with Mid-South Gastroenterology Associates in Columbia, Tennessee.

When should you get a colonoscopy?

  • Whether you're a man or a woman, the American Cancer Society recommends you start screenings at age 50 if you have no specific risk factors. 
  • If your parent or sibling had colon cancer before age 60, begin screenings 10 years earlier than the age your family member was when diagnosed or at age 40, whichever is younger.
  • African-Americans have a higher risk of colon cancer and should begin screenings at age 45.
  • Colonoscopies should be repeated every 10 years or more often if recommended by your doctor.

“Speak to your physician about your individual risk for colorectal cancer and the right time to start screenings,” said Dr. Choksi.

Some people avoid having a colonoscopy because they’re scared, but colon screenings aren’t so bad. They’re usually painless, and although they can have some unpleasant side effects when you’re preparing for the test, that all goes away pretty quickly. Having to deal with cancer is a whole lot worse than going through a relatively simple procedure to help prevent the disease.

What to expect when you get a colonoscopy:

  • You'll have to clean out your colon first. Most people consider this the worst part of the test. Your doctor will give you instructions on how to prep for the procedure. While you're doing it, you'll need to stay pretty close to a bathroom.
  • Right before your colonoscopy, you will usually be given a sedative through an IV. It will make you sleepy and most people don't feel or remember anything about the test.
  • You will need to have someone drive you home because you may still feel some effects from the sedative for a few hours. Otherwise, slight bloating, cramping and gas are usually the only post-procedure effects.


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Date Last Reviewed: January 18, 2018
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Dr. Mervyn Danilewitz, MD
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