Colorectal Cancer Doesn’t Discriminate

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It may not be a topic you want to discuss, but it should be. Colorectal health is an aspect of overall health of which both men and women should be aware. Often times women think of colon and rectal cancers as men’s diseases, which doctors say is absolutely not true.

“Colon cancer affects both men and women,” explained Caroline Sanchez, MD, FACS, FASCRS, a colon and rectal board-certified surgeon with Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center. “The lifetime risk of developing colon cancer is 1 in 24 (4.15%) in women compared to 1 in 22 (4.49%) for men.”

The American Cancer Society recommends that people at average risk of colorectal cancer start regular screening at age 45. Dr. Sanchez said colon issues in both men and women are very similar.

“I take care of colon and rectal diseases. These conditions can range in severity. These diseases can be mildly irritating to life threatening. They can be benign or cancerous,” she said. “Early colon cancer rarely causes any obvious symptoms. Warning signs include change in bowel habits, rectal bleeding, abdominal
pain, cramping, bloating, unexpected weight loss or anemia.”

Dr. Sanchez noted many women will dismiss their symptoms and attribute them to their menstrual cycles. According to her, that’s why it’s so important to discuss colorectal diseases.

“Issues of the colon and rectum are often difficult to discuss, but you should not be afraid to talk about new symptoms you may be experiencing,” Dr. Sanchez stressed. “Often times there is a simple explanation, which can easily be treated, and you don’t have to suffer in silence. If there is something more serious, it is
best to find out earlier.”

To find a gastroenterologist or colorectal surgeon, call 1-800-Sentara or visit


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