Kirstie Alley Was Diagnosed Just Before Her Death — Here’s What Women Should Know

Colorectal cancer affects about 1 in every 25 women in the United States, and doctors recommend regular screenings.

Kirstie Alley died of colon cancer on Monday at the age of 71. Her diagnosis, which her family claims she only discovered recently before her death, is shedding light on the disease and the importance of early detection.

Colon cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, is the third most common cancer globally, trailing only lung and breast cancer. Despite having a slightly lower risk than men, approximately one in every twenty-five women in the United States will be diagnosed with the disease during her lifetime.

While approximately 90% of colon cancer cases occur in people over the age of 50, the number of new cases among adults under the age of 50 has been increasing since the mid-1990s, according to Fight CRC, a national colorectal cancer advocacy organization that raises awareness about the importance of early detection through screening.

People with colon cancer, on the other hand, fare better when the disease is detected and treated early before it spreads beyond the large intestine or rectum.

The American Cancer Society recommends that adults aged 45 and up have regular colon cancer screenings, including stool analyses or colonoscopies. They also advise people who have symptoms of colon cancer, such as a change in bowel movements, such as increased diarrhea; rectal bleeding; dark stools; unexpected weight loss; cramping, and excessive fatigue, to see a doctor. However, they emphasize the importance of preventive screenings, as these symptoms typically appear after colon cancer has spread.

While most symptoms of colon cancer are the same in men and women, some, such as abdominal cramping, lack of energy, and excessive fatigue, can be easily misdiagnosed as menstrual symptoms, according to Healthline. Women are encouraged to consult their doctor if they have these symptoms unrelated to their cycle or if they have these symptoms for the first time, even during their cycle.

Furthermore, according to Fight CRC, 25% of people diagnosed with the disease have a family history of the disease. Anyone with a colorectal cancer family history should start screening 10 years before their youngest affected relative is diagnosed.

A colonoscopy is likely required every five years following an initial screening. Women should also be aware that the risk of all cancers increases after menopause.


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