Are you 50 or older? You should get colon cancer screenings starting at age 50, or sooner, if there is a family history of the disease. While there is no way to completely prevent cancer, there are things you can do to help lower your risk. One of them being to see a doctor for a colonoscopy.
“Most colorectal cancer starts as a polyp, or a growth, in the inner lining of the colon or rectum,” said Dr. H. Clay Dean, General Surgeon at Sauk Prairie Healthcare. “A colonoscopy will reveal those polyps. Although most polyps are not cancerous, they can become cancerous if left untreated. However, if it is caught early, colorectal cancer is highly treatable and often preventable.”
Sauk Prairie Healthcare is once again asking people to “Get your rear in here.” It’s a campaign to raise awareness about the importance of colonoscopies. “It’s a light-hearted message with a serious implication,” said Dr. Dean.
Pay Attention to Your Body
Are you experiencing any of the following: anemia, fatigue, bleeding of the rectum, a change in bowel habits, bloating and discomfort?
“You know your body best,” said Dr. Parins. “If you notice something strange or unusual, it’s important that you share your symptoms with your doctor so that we can provide the correct diagnosis and treatment.”
Screenings can detect cancer before the warning signs, making it a crucial part of prevention. “It’s estimated that it takes about 10 years for a cell or polyp to turn into a cancer,” said Dr. Parins. “By performing a colonoscopy every 10 years, we can spot polyps and remove them before it becomes cancer.”
New technology in the field of colorectal cancer screening has brought about a variety of alternative tests, but a colonoscopy is still the most effective. “Colonoscopy is the gold standard for screening,” said Dr. Dean. “We can prevent 90% of colorectal cancers by performing colonoscopies.”
“If we find a polyp during a colonoscopy, we will remove it and your risk of developing colorectal cancer is significantly reduced,” said Dr. Parins.
Lower Your Risk
According to the American Cancer Society, you can help lower your risk for colon cancer by paying attention to your diet and physical activity:
- Avoid obesity and weight gain around your midsection.
- Increase the intensity and amount of your physical activity.
- Limit red and processed meats.
- Eat more vegetables and fruits.
- Get the recommended levels of calcium and vitamin D.
- Avoid excess alcohol consumption.
The Truth About Colonoscopies
Contrary to popular belief, a colonoscopy can be a relatively painless procedure. Prior to your colonoscopy, your doctor will give you instructions regarding diet or fluid restrictions, but the procedure itself only lasts about 15-45 minutes. During this time you may be sedated to minimize any discomfort.
“Following the procedure, patients wake up fairly quickly and feel pretty good,” commented Dr. Dean. “And the very next day you can go back to work.”
Despite its importance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that nearly one in three adults aged 50 to 75 years have not been tested for colorectal cancer as recommended.
If you’re 50 years old or older, be sure you’re doing what it takes to reduce your risk and prevent colorectal cancer. Talk with your doctor today about scheduling a colonoscopy.