While a colonoscopy may not be the most lady-like thing to talk about when you’re out having coffee with friends, starting the conversation could lead to early detection, which could also lead to survival.

Women and colon cancer

Women Walking In Park

Women, listen up.

According to the CDC, colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. that affect both men and women. In fact, both men and women are at equal risk of diagnosis.

While a colonoscopy may not be the most lady-like thing to talk about when you’re out having coffee with friends, starting the conversation could lead to early detection, which could also lead to survival.

One woman’s story

Diane Kesterson of Virginia Beach was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2000 at the age of 45. She had no family history. The stage-3 cancer was diagnosed five years before Diane was even due for her first colonoscopy screening at age 50. To make matters worse, Diane had ignored the symptoms of constipation, diarrhea and stomach cramps for months.

“I was on a steady diet of Maalox and Kaopectate and writing it off as stress,” Diane recalls. “My doctor finally insisted on a fecal blood test, which I also put off for a while, and then the colonoscopy that told the real story.”

A surgeon removed 12 inches of Diane’s large intestine. Chemotherapy took much of her hair. Her weight plunged to 95 pounds. With the help of family and faith, she battled back.
“I thank God I am alive to share the importance of early detection with others,” Diane said. “Get your colonoscopy screening as soon as you reach age 50. If you have a family history, or any of the symptoms, please don’t wait.”

About Screenings

Studies show that 60 percent of colon cancer deaths could be avoided if everyone 50 years of age and older were screened regularly.

National guidelines recommend examining a minimum of 12 lymph nodes in patients with colon cancer to confirm the absence of a tumor and for proper cancer staging.

  • Sentara Cancer Network has a 95.7% average of examining 12 or more lymph nodes.
  • Virginia has an 87.8 percent average of examining 12 or more lymph nodes.
  • The U.S. has an 84.8 percent average of examining 12 or more lymph nodes.
    Contact your physician today to discuss a colonoscopy if any of these apply to you:
    • I have a family history of Colon Cancer in a first-degree relative (parents, brother, sister, child).
    • I’m 45 years old and I’m African American.
    • I’m 50 years or better and have not had a colonoscopy.
    • I have had a colonoscopy, but I’m not sure when to get the next one.

Editor's Note:
Diane's story also appeared in The Virginia Beach Sun on Feb. 27, 2014.