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What Colon Cancer Test Is Best for Women?

Colonoscopy Identifies More Cancers in Women, Researchers Say
WebMD Health News

May 18, 2005 -- Colonoscopy may be the "preferred method of screening" for colon cancer and rectal cancer in women, say doctors in The New England Journal of Medicine.

No colon cancer screening test is perfect. It's possible for colonoscopy (or any screening method) to miss some cancers or polyps. However, colonoscopy may be a woman's best test, shows the study by researchers including Philip Schoenfeld, MD, of the University of Michigan's medical school.

Colon cancer is the third most common cancer found in men and women in the U.S. (not counting skin cancer), says the American Cancer Society (ACS). The ACS expects nearly 105,000 new cases of colon cancer, more than 40,000 new rectal cancer cases, and more than 56,000 deaths from both kinds of cancer this year.

Early Detection Saves Lives

The death rate for colorectal cancer has been dropping for 15 years, says the ACS. Early detection can greatly improve chances of survival.

The ACS recommends that men and women of average risk begin screening at age 50. Those with certain risk factors should begin screening earlier, says the ACS.

Screening methods include colonoscopy, "virtual" colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy, fecal occult blood tests, and double-contrast barium enemas. Other studies have shown colonoscopy detects more cancers.

A colonoscope is a longer version of a sigmoidoscope. It's a thin, lighted tube with a tiny camera that doctors use to look inside the colon. A colonoscope can be guided all the way along the colon. A sigmoidoscope only lets a doctor see about half of the colon, says the ACS.

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