Colorectal Cancer: Do Men and Women Experience Different Symptoms?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital March 26, 2014

Men and women generally exhibit the same colorectal cancer symptoms.

Contributor: Jeffrey Meyerhardt, MD, MPH, is Clinical Director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Treatment Center at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center and Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

While there are slightly more incidences of colorectal cancer in men (71,860 new cases projected in the U.S. in 2014) than women (65,000), both men and women generally exhibit the same symptoms of the disease, explains Dr. Meyerhardt.

“Many patients don’t have symptoms, but they’re diagnosed because they get a screening colonoscopy,” says Dr. Meyerhardt. Common symptoms for patients who do show signs of colon or rectal cancer include blood in the stool, changes in bowel habits, diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal pain. Some patients also have symptoms related to anemia, including increased tiredness or shortness of breath, or may be found to be anemic from routine blood work.

The risk factors for colorectal cancer — which include age, family history of the disease, or having Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis — are also similar for men and women, Dr. Meyerhardt says. However, some lifestyle choices also can increase risk. These include obesity, lack of physical activity, low vitamin D, and consuming a high amount of red meat, which may differ between men and women.

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Colorectal Cancer: Five Things You Need To Know

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital March 4, 2014

Thanks to increased awareness, the death rate from colorectal cancer has been dropping for more than 20 years.

Contributor: Dr. Jeffrey Meyerhardt is the clinical director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Treatment Center at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center.

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the U.S., with about 134,490 new patients diagnosed in the U.S. in 2016. But thanks to increased awareness about screenings, the death rate from colorectal cancer has been dropping for more than 20 years.

“For the most part, colorectal cancer is a curable and preventable disease,” says Dr. Jeffrey Meyerhardt, clinical director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Treatment Center at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center. “It is a cancer where we have very good data that shows screening prevents disease and saves lives.”

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New Lung Cancer Screening Guidelines Expand Eligibility

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 17, 2012

The new guidelines expand lung cancer screening eligibility to 94 million Americans.

A lung cancer screening and surveillance task force led by a Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) physician team, and established by the American Association for Thoracic Surgery (AATS), is strongly recommending new lung cancer screening guidelines that promote the expanded use of low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) scans.

Based on recent research showing that low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) screening can help reduce lung cancer deaths, the task force is now recommending annual LDCT lung cancer screening for the following patients:

  • Smokers and former smokers between the ages of 55 and 79 who have smoked the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes a day for 30 years.
  • Smokers and former smokers between the ages of 50 and 79 who have smoked the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes a day for 20 years and have other factors that raise their risk of developing lung cancer.
  • Long-term lung cancer survivors up to the age of 79 (to detect a second case of primary lung cancer).

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Prostate Cancer Screening – Should I or Shouldn’t I?

Posted by Blog Administrator May 7, 2012

Should you get a prostate cancer screening? It depends on who you ask or what you read.

While one research study shows that the benefit of prostate cancer screening is significant, another study finds little, if any, benefit. And while one expert defends the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening test – which measures levels of the PSA protein in the blood – another just as passionately dismisses it. With studies, experts, and news stories disseminating such widely varying viewpoints, it’s easy to understand why men and their loved ones would feel confused – and wonder how to arrive at an informed decision.

Start by asking an expert.

Dr. Anthony D’Amico, Professor and Chief of Genitourinary Radiation Oncology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Chief of the Prostate Cancer Radiation Oncology Service at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center, has been treating prostate cancer for more than 20 years and continues to be a firm advocate of prostate cancer screening, particularly for younger men. “PSA screening is effective in decreasing cancer death,” says D’Amico. “It’s a critical tool for having an informed conversation with a man about whether he needs treatment or not.”

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Risk Versus Benefit: Lung Cancer Screening

Posted by Blog Administrator April 30, 2012

lung cancer screening xray

A new CT screening test captures many views of the lungs, providing more detail than traditional x-ray lung cancer screening.

Any type of medical intervention – surgery, medications, even x-rays – involves some degree of risk. So the doctor or caregiver must always assess: Does the risk outweigh the benefit?

Lung cancer screening is a case in point. A new CT screening test captures many views of the lungs, providing more detail than traditional x-ray screening. This makes identification of early-stage lung cancer nodules more likely – and the earlier lung cancer is diagnosed, the greater the chance of survival.

But here’s the catch: CT scans emit small amounts of radiation, and accumulated radiation exposure increases risk for cancer. This puts Dr. Francine Jacobson and other radiologists at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) in an awkward situation. “I have to balance the risk for patients,” notes Dr. Jacobson, “between their exposure to ionizing radiation versus the benefits of the CT scan.”

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