Women also at risk for colon cancer

Jill Asrael says if only her mother had done what she was supposed to do, she likely would be alive today.

"I do believe in my heart that her cancer could potentially have been prevented," said Asrael.

Her mom had a colonoscopy ten years too late. Doctors recommend everyone have a colonoscopy at age 50, some even sooner, but females often are reluctant.

"They are almost paralyzed by fear," said Dr. Alyia Hasan, University of Colorado.

The University of Colorado Hospital is breaking down barriers. Other than the patient's husband in the room, it is a women's only colonoscopy clinic.

"We know for some women, they are really uncomfortable coming into the procedure because of the gender of the physician doing the procedure," said Dr. Hasan.

It is the country's only colonoscopy clinic run by women, for women. That helps remove the common excuse that it is too embarrassing.

"I think people think it is scary and yucky, and it is," said Ann Marie, a colonoscopy patient.

It's important to screen men and women differently. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found precancerous polyps in women generally occur much higher up in the intestines, out of reach of most scopes used in men.

Symptoms include unexpected weight loss, abdominal bloating, swelling and cramping, stomach pains, fatigue, change in bowel habits and blood in your stool.

After fifteen minutes of poking and prodding Ann got a clean bill of health and peace of mind.

"I would say it's no big deal. I mean really, I am telling you the truth," said Ann Marie.

And it is all in a relaxing atmosphere of sisterhood.

It's recommended men and women have a colonoscopy at age 50, then every ten years thereafter.

In some cases a local anesthetic is used, in others patients are sedated during the procedure.

Web Extra Information: Preventing Colon Cancer


Colorectal cancers are broken down into two groups: cancers of the large intestine or colon and cancers of the last six inches of the colon, called the rectum. Most cases of colon cancer begin as small, noncancerous (benign) clumps of cells called adenomatous polyps. Over time some of these polyps become colon cancers.

Colorectal cancer is screened using a diagnostic procedure called a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy is an endoscopic examination of the large intestine and distal part of the small intestine. A fiber optic camera attached to a flexible tube is inserted through the anus and allows a gastroenterologist to see if any polyps have formed.

During a colonoscopy, polyps smaller than one millimeter can be removed for examination. Since the colon must be free of solid matter at the time of examination, patients must abstain from eating solid foods for one to three days before their colonoscopy. Although some patients only receive local anesthetic during their colonoscopy, most patients receive some sort of sedative intravenously.

There is a common misconception that colorectal cancer is a man's disorder, when actually the numbers of men and women who are diagnosed are about even. Past studies have shown men are much more likely to be screened for colorectal cancer by having a colonoscopy than women.


The University of Colorado is now offering an alternative for women who are hesitant to see a male gastroenterologist for colon-related health issues. They have created a women's-only colonoscopy clinic. Both the doctor and nurse in the endoscopy room with patients are females. Studies suggest most women prefer the idea of a female colonoscopist and will wait longer and even pay more to have their procedure done by a woman.

A clinic with only female gastroenterologists is unique because only 10 percent of doctors in the field are female. The average for other specialties is 26.7 percent. The clinic was created by Aliya Hasan, M.D., an assistant professor in the division of gastroenterology at the University of Colorado, Denver School of Medicine.



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