It’s not a topic people want to talk about. It’s about our derrière after all! But we need to talk about it. Colonoscopies save lives. It’s a fact.
Colorectal Screening “Early detection of the cancer can reduce a person’s risk of death by 90%,” said Dr. Theodore Parins, General Surgeon at Sauk Prairie Healthcare.
Wisconsin led the charge, as Governor Walker was the first to sign a state proclamation recognizing March 2016 as National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Sauk Prairie Healthcare is proud to join the effort this March with a message of “Get your rear in here!” The goal is to bring awareness to need for colon cancer screening starting at the age of 50, or sooner if there is a family history of the disease.
The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2016, there will be 95,270 new cases of colon cancer and 39,220 new cases of rectal cancer in the United States. The result: an estimated 49,190 deaths.
Dr. Parins is familiar with these statistics. “Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of death from cancer in both men and women in the United States” commented Dr. Parins. “I see it all too often.”
Most colorectal cancer starts as a polyp, or a growth, in the inner lining of the colon or rectum. Although most polyps are not cancerous, they can become cancer if left untreated.
However, if it is caught early, colorectal cancer is highly treatable and often preventable.
For some, that means noticing and reacting to the warning signs. “Common symptoms are anemia, fatigue, bleeding of the rectum, a change in bowel habits, bloating and discomfort,” said Dr. Parins.
Dr. Parins explains that it’s always important to consult with your doctor. “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.”
Unlike with other forms of cancer, colorectal cancer rarely presents warning signs. “Unfortunately, you don’t often experience symptoms until very late in the process and then it is much more difficult to treat,” said Dr. Parins.
Catching the disease early is key making colorectal cancer screenings so important. 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 Dr. Parins explains that a colonoscopy is still the most effective. “Colonoscopy is the gold standard for screening,” said Parins. “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 goes back to zero.”
While diet and genetics play a role in colorectal cancer, “age is the biggest risk factor,” commented Dr. Parins.
“For an average risk person with no family history and no other problems, you should start doing colonoscopies at age 50,” said Dr. Parins. “If they’re normal or we find very simple polyps, then it can be done every 10 years.”
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 30-60 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. Parins “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.
“I think people are concerned and sometimes embarrassed so they avoid a colonoscopy,” said Dr. Parins. “But it’s much easier to undergo a colonoscopy than to deal with colorectal cancer.”