Forty percent of American women at risk* for colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon or rectum) have never had a colonoscopy, according to a new survey released today. Although general awareness of and screening for the disease seems to be on the rise, 42 percent of at-risk women have never even discussed colorectal cancer with their health care provider. However, nearly one in five of these same women are regularly screened for cervical cancer, a far less common threat.
These and other startling facts revealed by the survey have prompted the launch of Dare to Be Aware, an educational initiative led by the National Women's Health Resource Center (NWHRC). Dare to Be Aware confronts the issues that may be putting women at greater risk of dying from colorectal cancer - such as embarrassment, fear and lack of knowledge - by providing women with essential information about risk factors, screening guidelines and treatment options, as well as a risk assessment tool to help them take action.
"Colorectal cancer is not only a man's disease; in fact, it's a leading cancer killer among women, directly behind lung and breast cancer, yet so many of us are ignoring the threat," said Amy Niles, President and CEO of NWHRC. "Our advisory council of leading medical and health experts created Dare to Be Aware to educate women about their risk of colorectal cancer and help them understand that appropriate and timely screening could save their lives."
Colorectal cancer is expected to claim the lives of almost 30,000 women this year, according to the American Cancer Society, which also estimates that half of all people who die from the disease could have been saved by screening alone. Despite these facts, the survey, conducted on behalf of NWHRC, revealed that 46 percent of at-risk women who have not had a colonoscopy simply think they do not need one.
Additionally, when asked what kept them from scheduling a colonoscopy, another 34 percent identified the perceived uncomfortable or embarrassing nature of the procedure1.
Although the exact cause of colorectal cancer is unknown, age, race, heredity, diet and lifestyle factors -- such as smoking and lack of exercise -- all appear to play a role in its development.
The American Cancer Society recommends that healthy women with no family history of colorectal cancer have their first colonoscopy at age 50 and women with a family history of colorectal cancer should begin their screenings at age 40, or 10 years earlier than the age of their youngest family member's diagnosis.
"Colorectal cancer, which is highly preventable and treatable, needs to become a part of a woman's standard cancer screening regimen, right alongside breast and cervical cancer," said Dr. Edward Chu, a cancer specialist at Yale Cancer Center, Yale University School of Medicine. "With early detection and proper treatment, the five-year survival rate for a colorectal cancer diagnosis is 90 percent, presenting an opportunity to radically lower the number of women dying from this disease if only they'd get screened."
When screening reveals the presence of colorectal cancer, viable treatment options such as surgery, chemotherapy and, in some cases, radiation, are all available to treat the disease. The field of colorectal cancer therapy continues to advance, and chemotherapy drugs, including oral therapy, have been effective in shrinking tumors and delaying tumor growth. Oral chemotherapy, in particular, can help a patient continue to lead a productive life while undergoing treatment.
American women of all ages need to educate themselves about colorectal cancer and take steps to prevent or detect it early. For more information about colorectal cancer and Dare to Be Aware, including an educational brochure, a risk assessment tool to help women broach colorectal cancer screening with their health care professionals, and a list of important colorectal cancer resources, please visit the NWHRC Web site at fmxhosting.com/drupal635.
Colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon or rectum) is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, and the second worldwide. The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that in 2005, more than 145,000 Americans will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and more than 56,000 will die from the disease - a number that could be cut in half if Americans followed ACS recommendations to begin screening at age 50.
Seven hundred and fifty adult women (ages 35+) participated in a twelve-minute telephone survey between February 20th and 22nd, 2005. The women were recruited and screened through public opinion and strategic research firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research Inc. Data was tabulated to learn the general awareness and opinions of American women concerning colorectal cancer. The survey carries a margin of error of +/- 3.6 percent.
National Women's Health Resource Center (NWHRC)
Since the late 1980s, the NWHRC has helped millions of women educate themselves about the health topics that concern them the most. The non-profit organization, dedicated to helping women make informed decisions about their health, encourages women to embrace healthy lifestyles to promote wellness and prevent disease. As the national clearinghouse for women's health information, providing access to health information and resources is the NWHRC's primary goal. The information they provide is comprehensive, objective and supported by an advisory council comprised of the nation's leading medical and health experts. For more information about the NWHRC visit fmxhosting.com/drupal635.
Dare to Be Aware is made possible with support from Roche.
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1. Respondents were given the option of more than one response
* "At-risk" is defined in several ways: over 50 years of age; or over 40 years of age with a family history of colorectal cancer; or 10 years prior to the age at which a family member was diagnosed (e.g., If your mother was diagnosed at age 32, you are considered "at risk" at age 22).