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    Girl's Guide to Preventing, Avoiding, Treating, and Even Beating Cancer

    COLORECTAL CANCER: The "Men's" Cancer You Could Get

    Despite its reputation as a male disease, colorectal cancer rates were up 20 percent in women 30 to 34, compared with 5 percent in men, between 2000 and 2008. "Because young women usually don't get colonoscopies, their colorectal cancers often present at an advanced stage when the prognosis is worse," says Dr. Michael A. Choti, Jacob C. Handelsman professor of surgery and vice chair of the Johns Hopkins Department of Surgery. Gastrointestinal conditions like inflammatory bowel disease increase your risk by causing inflammation, which can lead to polyps, small clumps of irregular cells in the colon. If polyps are removed right away, the cancer may never form. Early interventions are 99 percent successful.

    YOUR PERSONAL PREVENTION PLAN
    -An annual stool sample can lead to early detection. Ask your gynecologist for one, and get a rectal exam, too. She'll use her finger to check for polyps.
    -See a doctor if your bowel movements change or you have constipation, diarrhea, or bleeding from the rectum lasting for longer than a few days.
    -Get a colonoscopy at age 50 unless you have a family history. If so, go at 40, or when you're 10 years younger than your relative was at the age of diagnosis—whichever comes first.

    REASON FOR HOPE
    Johns Hopkins researchers are developing a DNA-based stool test that will detect cancerous cells shed from the colon.

    18 grams: The daily amount of fiber that a 2010 study found would lower the risk of colorectal cancer. So load up on apples (skin on), lentils, kale, and wheat bran, and avoid red meat and fatty foods, which have been linked to a higher risk.

    Cancer therapies have made strides: In 2011 alone, the FDA approved seven new oncological drugs.About 65 percent of early-stage breast cancer chemotherapy patients suffer hair loss.Intravenous chemotherapy accounts for about 80 percent of chemo treatments.

    —Additional reporting by Melissa Goldberg

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