Women are terrified of breast cancer. And rightfully so. It is the most common type of cancer in women. What about colorectal cancer? Not so much.

Screening rate for breast cancer is 72.4% versus 58.8% for colorectal cancer according to 2010 CDC data. Colorectal cancer kills women too.

What we know about colorectal cancer in women?

  • It is the 3rd leading cause of cancer death in women after lung cancer and breast cancer.
  • Overall, the incidence of colorectal cancer is 34.9 cases for every 100,000 female Americans; 33.9 cases for every white female Americans and 40.9 cases for every black female Americans.
  • In 2011 (the most recent year numbers available according to CDC), 65,161 women were diagnosed with colorectal cancer and 24,979 women died from colorectal cancer.

Colonoscopy can prevent colorectal cancer through removal of precancerous polyps during the colonoscopy procedure whereas mammography is merely a cancer detection test.

Mammograms do nothing in the way of treatment for the cancer they detect.

What is unique about colorectal cancer in women?

♦ Right sided colon cancers which typically present as advanced disease are more common in women than in men.

♦ Colorectal cancer incidence is increasing among women younger than 50.

♦ Women with endometrial cancer (cancer of the uterus) at age 50 or younger should be tested for Lynch syndrome.

Lynch Syndrome is the most common cause of inherited colorectal cancer. It is associated with endometrial and ovarian cancers among other cancers.

So who needs to get screened  for colon cancer and at what age should they start?

1. Average risk individuals without family history of colon cancer should start at age 50.

2. African-Americans should start at age 45 according to the American College of Gastroenterology.

3. Individuals with one first degree relative (parents or siblings) with history of colorectal cancer or adenomatous (precancerous) polyps before the age of 60 or two or more first degree relatives at any age should start screening at age 40 or 10 years earlier than the age of the affected relative.

Example would be if a parent got diagnosed with colon cancer at age 52, the child should start screening at age 40 or age 42 at the latest.

4. Individuals with two or more second degree relatives (uncles, aunties, grandparents) with colorectal cancer should start screening at age 40.

5. Individuals with familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) should start screening at age 10-12.

6. Individuals with Lynch syndrome should start screening at age 20-25 or 10 years younger than the youngest affected immediate relative.

7. Individuals with inflammatory bowel (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease) disease should start screening after 8-10 years of being diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease.

 Colorectal cancer is preventable. Get Screened.

About the Author:
Adewale Ajumobi, MD is a gastroenterologist and the editor of bowelprepguide.com


Wondering about all the other health maintenance tests that you need to keep up with?
♦ How often should you get a pap smear?
♦ What your blood pressure should be?
♦ When should you start getting mammograms and so on?

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