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Medical News and Perspectives
March 22/29, 2006

Silence Masks Prevalence of Fecal Incontinence

JAMA. 2006;295(12):1362-1363. doi:10.1001/jama.295.12.1362

Fecal incontinence can have a devastating impact on a woman's life, yet few women with this problem seek help from their physicians. This silence makes it difficult for physicians to assess how common the problem is, and it prevents women from receiving treatment. Now, results from a pair of large, community-based studies may help lift this veil of secrecy and enable physicians to identify patients who need care.

One study—conducted by researchers from the University of Washington, Seattle; the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; and the Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, a Seattle-based health insurer—found that about 7% of women experience fecal incontinence at least once a month and that the condition is even more common among older women (Melville JL et al. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2005;193:2071-2076). A second study, by researchers from the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and the Olmstead Medical Center, Rochester, Minn, found that more than 1 in 10 women have had fecal incontinence in the past year (Bharucha AE. Gastroenterology. 2005;129:42-49).

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