By the way, doctor: How often should I have a colonoscopy?

Q. How often should a healthy 55-year-old woman have a colonoscopy? Do the benefits outweigh the risk of complications, such as bowel perforation?

A. Colonoscopy is one of several tests used to screen for colorectal cancer, the third most common cancer and cause of cancer mortality (after breast and lung cancer) in American women. In 2008, some 149,000 Americans were diagnosed with the disease, and 50,000 died of it. Experts believe that adequate screening could have prevented perhaps 60% of those deaths.

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