When you think about the deadliest cancers that affect women, ovarian cancer might be the first thing that pops into your head. And while it's true that ovarian cancer is difficult to detect early, this month, medical professionals urge you to remember your colon.
Colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in the United States, killing about 50,000 people (men and women combined) every year. But a lot of people don't think they're at risk. According to NYU Langone Medical Center, colon polyps and early colon cancers often cause no symptoms and most people who develop colon cancer have no history of the disease in their family. No wonder it's considered a silent killer.
And it certainly doesn't help that colon cancer is often thought of as a man's disease. But listen up: Almost 49% of 131,000 cases diagnosed in 2010 were in women.
In recognition of National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, NYU Langone created the above video to remind people of the importance of screening. Unlike ovarian cancer, which has no early screening tests, you can get tested for colon cancer, and the recommendation is to start at age 50. This way doctors can find growths that can be removed before they become cancerous—or can help diagnose the disease early when it’s highly curable. (People who have colon cancer in their family or have other risk factors, such as colon polyps and inflammatory bowel disease, should ask their doctor about getting screened sooner.)
Problem is, not enough people are getting screened. Case in point: 1 in 3 Americans aged 50 to 75 have never been screened, according to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. Colonoscopy, a procedure in which a lighted scope is used to examine the large intestine (while you're asleep!), is the very best way to detect colon cancer. But if the idea doesn’t sound appealing to you, there are plenty of other options. Turns out there are seven colon cancer screening tests, including an at-home test that can detect tiny amounts of blood in the stool. You should discuss with your doctor which test is right for you, but the important thing is to have the discussion in the first place.