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Colonoscopies and Women: What Age to Have One

August 4, 2022
A physician holds up a card with the word “colonoscopy.”

Colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in the United States among men and women. Colonoscopies can help with the early detection of cancer, and they are a key component of preventative care. While a higher incidence of colorectal cancer is found in men compared to women, it does not mean women are not at risk. Richmond University Medical Center in Staten Island, NY, provides information on the importance of colonoscopy screenings in women and the appropriate age to have one done.

The Importance of Colonoscopy Screenings for Women

A colonoscopy looks for changes in the colon and rectum, such as swollen, irritated tissues, polyps, or cancer. This screening detects signs of these changes at earlier phases where they are typically much easier to treat. Gastroenterology and endoscopy specialists often will recommend a colonoscopy at a certain age when patients become at higher risk for colorectal cancer, or an earlier point for those with a family history of colorectal cancer.

Since some people think of colorectal cancer as a men’s disease, some women may not see the need to schedule the procedure. However, having regulatory colonoscopy screenings can reduce the risk of developing this cancer by up to 60%, regardless of other factors such as sex. While it may be unpleasant for a short period, the minor discomfort of a colonoscopy far outweighs the potentially lifelong challenges of having colorectal cancer.

At What Age Should a Woman Get a Colonoscopy?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), women should begin screening for colorectal cancer soon after turning 45, just like men. Women should then continue getting screened at regular intervals as suggested by their physicians. Most medical professionals suggest adults continue to have routine colonoscopy screenings until around age 75. Women who are over the age of 75 should discuss with their physicians whether they should continue screenings or not.

Overall, for patients 45 or older with no colon cancer risk factors other than age, physicians may recommend a colonoscopy every 10 years. However, a person may need colonoscopies more often and may need to start earlier than age 45, if they:

  • Suffer from inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis
  • Have a family history of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps
  • Have a genetic syndrome such as familial adenomatous polyposis or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer

What to Expect with a Colonoscopy

Patients undergoing a colonoscopy should be prepared to expect the following:

Preparing for the Procedure

The physician will provide detailed instructions on how to prep for the procedure, but typically this will entail cleaning out the colon. This process involves eating only low-fiber foods for two to three days before switching to a clear liquid diet and then drinking a prescription laxative the evening before the procedure. Some clear liquids that patients may drink the day before include:

  • Black coffee (no milk or cream)
  • Tea (no milk or cream)
  • Apple juice
  • White grape juice
  • Sprite (any clear soft drinks)
  • Popsicles (no red or purple)
  • Broth (chicken, beef, or vegetable)

During the Colonoscopy  

When the patient arrives at the appointment, a nurse or medical assistant will provide a sedative through an IV to block off sensations of pain during the procedure. Once the patient is under, the physician performs the colonoscopy. When the patient wakes up from the sedative, the procedure is already complete.

Schedule a Colonoscopy at Richmond University Medical Center

Modern technology and colorectal cancer screening techniques have made colonoscopies much smoother and more effective. In many cases, medical professionals note they may save lives. For this reason, women need colonoscopies just as much as men as a preventative measure.

Women living in or around Staten Island, NY, may consider scheduling a colonoscopy with Richmond University Medical Center. Patient testimonials attest to the experienced physicians and staff who have extensive knowledge in acute, medical, and surgical care. Patients with additional questions or concerns regarding colonoscopy screenings and those who would like to set up an appointment can contact us today.