Colon Cancer Screening Saves Lives
March 1, 2017
Even if you believe to have no risk factors, a colon screening could help save your life
“That’s the thing about colon cancer. Many do not realize that colon cancer can begin and have zero symptoms associated with it,” said Filberto Colon, MD, Gastroenterologist of Mountain Medical Associates. “When discovered early, it is highly treatable.”
Established in 2000, March is now dedicated as Colon Cancer Awareness Month. A common misconception is that colon cancer is a “man’s disease.” Colon cancer affects both men and women, and typically is found in individuals 50 and older. However, cases in younger adults are on the rise, making awareness and screenings more crucial than ever before. According to the Colon Cancer Alliance, colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. and the lifetime risk is about 1 in every 20 people will develop the cancer. Make sure you are aware if your family has a history of colon cancer in a first-degree relative (parent, sibling child) as you may have 2 to 3 more times the risk of developing the disease.
YOUR BEST BET
Having a screening is the process of looking for cancer, even if there are no signs or symptoms. A screening can help prevent cancer by detecting polyps (small growths on the lining of the colon). While many polyps are not cancerous, a vast majority of them can develop into cancerous cells.
WHAT TO EXPECT
A colonoscopy screening exam is almost always done on an outpatient basis. A mild sedative is usually given before the procedure and then a flexible, slender tube is inserted into the rectum to look inside the colon. The test is safe and the procedure itself typically takes less than 45 minutes.
Dr. Paul Levy, Gastroenterologist with Mountain Medical Associates says, “60% of colon cancer deaths could be avoided if everyone aged 50 or older were screened regularly (according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Misconceptions, thoughts, and fears about the test can lead someone to avoid getting a colonoscopy that in fact, can save their life.”
“I had just turned 50 and Dr.Lafata, my internist, talked to me about the importance of doing it now. I had zero symptoms but I got my colonoscopy and on Sept 25th 2015 I was told I had cancer. Cancer isn’t something you want to hear – when you hear those words, it’s like a train has hit you. They caught this at exactly the right time because it hadn’t spread to anything. If I had put it off until the next year, it would have been a good battle. I underwent surgery and chemo and I am now cancer free. Now I feel like it’s one of my priorities to get the message out there. I try to explain that it’s not as bad as it seems. Are you going to let the embarrassment get in the way of saving your own life? Because the colonoscopy saved mine.”