Colonoscopies Could Save Your Life
The key to preventing colorectal cancer is through regular screenings.
Sponsored content by Memorial Regional Health
Every March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, but that shouldn’t be the only time you think about your colon and rectal health.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Every year more then 52,000 people die from it, but the good news is that in most cases colorectal cancer is preventable.
Starting at age 45, or earlier if your provider has assessed that you are at a higher risk, it is recommended that you begin regular screenings for colorectal cancer and precancerous polyps associated with the disease. Both the polyps and colorectal cancer don’t always cause symptoms at first, so it can sometimes go unnoticed without regular screenings.
What is colorectal cancer?
Colorectal cancer, also known as CRC, is a disease that impacts the colon or rectum, and anyone is at risk. It is often preventable and highly treatable when detected early. Screening is the number one way to prevent or detect this disease early because it is the only way providers can detect polyps within a patient’s colon.
While colorectal cancer often develops without symptoms, if experienced, some common symptoms may include:
- Persistent abdominal discomfort
- Blood in stool
- Rectal bleeding
- Change in bowel habits
- Weakness or fatigue
- Unexplained weight loss
The most common symptom for colorectal cancer is having no symptoms at all. Therefore, it is vital to get the recommended screenings.
When should you see a doctor?
The sooner the better is always the answer to this question. If you are 45 years old or older, or at a higher risk, reach out to your provider to start regular screenings. Risk factors include:
- Having inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
- Having a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps
- Having a genetic syndrome such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch syndrome)
- Being Black, African American or genetically Jewish (Ashkenazi Jew)
Dr. Jeff Womble is a general surgeon with Memorial Regional Health. He calls colonoscopies the gold standard in colon cancer screening tests.
“There is certainly an advantage of a colonoscopy over other colon cancer screening tests. When I find adenomatous polyps during a colonoscopy, I remove them right then and there,” Dr. Womble said.
Besides a colonoscopy, there are other screening options. Stool tests such as the Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) or the Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) check for blood in the stool. These tests are very good at finding colorectal cancer if you already have it, but they are not very good at finding precancerous polyps.
Womble said that there are three things we know for sure about colon cancer — the first is that the risk goes up after age 45. The second is all colon cancer starts off as polyps. The third is you can have colon polyps and even colon cancer and not know it until it is very advanced.
“In this day and age, there is no reason for people to get colon cancer,” Dr. Womble said. “If everyone gets screened as we recommend, we could prevent well over 90% of colon cancer cases.
No matter if you have any questions about the general surgery services our experienced surgeons can provide, or about which types of colorectal cancer screenings are right for you, we can help you figure out your best option.
Call Memorial Regional Health at 970-826-2420 or go online to memorialregionalhealth.com.
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