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E. What Women Should Know about Certain Cancer Screening Tests

Narrator: This is Science Today. Most people begin getting colorectal cancer screenings at age fifty and while many physicians consider the colonoscopy to be the gold standard test, there are other options. But some tests may be better suited for certain patients. Dr. Louise Walter, of the University of California, San Francisco's Veterans Affairs Medical Center, explains.

Walter: As a geriatrician, a lot of my older patients were coming to me and saying "what's the best test if I want to have a colorectal screening test?" And currently there's the fecal occult blood test, there's the flexible sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy. None of those tests are thought to be better than any of the others, except I thought - well, maybe there's a difference as people get older.

Narrator: Walter found there was a difference - women were twice as likely as men to have an inadequate flexible sigmoidoscopy exam, most probably due to anatomical differences of the colon.

Walter: Even an inadequate exam has some benefit -but if you are an older woman, I think I would lean towards either colonoscopy or fecal occult blood test, given the choice of the three tests.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.