Health Info & Resources for Seniors
March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month
The prospect of getting cancer strikes fear in the hearts of most people. Yet, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that one third of people age 50 to 75 fail to get a colonoscopy, a screening that test that significantly reduces one’s risk.
In 2016 alone, colorectal cancer is expected to cause about 49,190 deaths in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.
“Colonoscopy saves lives in two ways,” says gastroenterologist Dr. Noel Martins of St. Luke’s Gastroenterology Specialists. “First, should cancer be present, colonoscopy helps us to detect the disease in its earliest stages when treatment is more effective.
Second, colonoscopy enables us to identify and remove pre-cancerous growths, called polyps, consequently preventing the cancer from ever developing.” A polyp is a small clump of cells on the inner wall of the colon and rectum commonly found in adults over 50. While most are harmless, some can develop into colon cancer.
During a colonoscopy, a physician uses a thin, flexible tube equipped with a video camera to look into the patient’s colon. The camera projects pictures onto a screen of the inside of the colon and enables the doctor to remove polyps and abnormal growths.
The procedure usually last about 30 minutes and patients usually receive anesthesia. A day or so before the procedure, the patient is provided with very strong laxatives to clean out the colon.
Dr. Daniel Bowers of Eyvazzadeh and Reilly Colon and Rectal Center, adds, “As a colon and rectal surgeon I have witnessed the effectiveness of colonoscopy in reducing the incidence and severity of cancer.
As a result, I am dumbfounded by the fact that so many people avoid having them. If we could persuade more people to get a colonoscopy, just think of the needless suffering we could prevent.”
Dr. Bowers suggests that individuals get a screening colonoscopy every 10 years beginning at age 50. Should polyps be found, colonoscopy should be repeated sooner.
He also recommends the procedure at a younger age, or more frequently, should the patient have:
A personal history of colorectal cancer
A personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease)
A strong family history of colorectal cancer or polyps
A known family history of a hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome
If you are over 50 and have not had a colonoscopy talk to your family doctor. To schedule a colonoscopy, call St. Luke’s InfoLink toll-free at 1-866-STLUKES (785-8537) or visit www.sluhn.org for more information.