Women need to be aware that they are as much at risk for colorectal cancer as men are and should give this message to their mothers, sisters, and friends.

Women can share their experiences with screening procedures to reassure others that they are not unduly painful or embarrassing. In fact, current analgesia makes colonoscopy almost always pain-free. They can encourage other women to be screened.

Women need to know their own family cancer history so they can determine if they are at higher risk for colorectal cancer or might be diagnosed at a younger age.

While the best prevention is regular, effective screening, women can reduce (but not eliminate) their risk for colorectal cancer by not smoking, by maintaining a healthy weight, and by eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in red and processed meat.

Women need to be aware of the following symptoms of colorectal cancer and insist on a colonoscopy to rule out colon or rectal cancer if they experience them at any age:

  • Changes in bowel habits—constipation or diarrhea that does not get better
  • Blood in the stools, either red or dark
  • Narrow, thin stools
  • Frequent gas pains, bloating, cramps, or feelings of fullness or pain in the abdomen
  • Weight loss for no known reason
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Unexplained anemia
  • Vomiting

Women can help most of all simply by talking openly and freely with each other about colons, rectums, colorectal cancer, and symptoms that are too often kept secret.