Colon cancer: A deadly disease that can be stopped

March 13, 2019

This paid piece is sponsored by Avera Health.

The thought of cancer is frightening to most people.

One way to relieve fear and protect yourself is to take control of things you can. Diet and exercise are good examples, but so too is getting timely screening exams to find – and to stop – colon cancer.

This disease remains the No. 2 killer among all cancers in the United States, yet with a colonoscopy exam, it can be prevented.

“The lining of your colon is like your skin. You would not tell your dermatologist you don’t have skin cancer without an examination,” said Dr. Steven Condron, Avera Medical Group gastroenterologist. “The colonoscopy gives physicians the ability to inspect the surface of your colon and look for any pre-cancerous polyps, even hard-to-detect ones that lie flat against the surface.”

Seventy percent to 80 percent of people who get this “gold standard” exam will receive the result of normal. In other cases, the physician conducting the visual internal study may find adenomatous polyps – and remove them.

“There are stool tests and CT exams that provide information, but in those cases where the results are anything other than ‘normal,’ the next step will be a colonoscopy,” Condron said. “That’s why we recommend it to any patient who has reached the age where it’s best to get it done.”

Early, regular screening helps prevent colon cancer or detect cancer in its earliest stages, when it is most treatable. For the general population, men and women age 50 should undergo this colon-cancer screening exam.

Some people may need earlier or more frequent screenings based on a family or polyps found in past exams.

“Everyone should get screened whether or not you have a family history of colon cancer. It’s the best way to prevent colon cancer,” said Dr. Tad Jacobs, Avera Medical Group chief medical officer. “Be sure to talk with your provider at your annual exam about your medical history, sedation needs and personal sensitivity. Then, you and your provider can choose the screening test that’s best for you.”

The exam is low-risk. Most patients fear the preparation and fasting, but the exam itself is usually a case of waking up after it is completed.

“The health-related benefits of colonoscopy are obvious, but the time- and cost-savings advantages are additional factors,” Condron said. “If you opt for other tests, you may be visiting us twice.”

Age is the primary colon cancer risk factor and why starting exams at age 50 is so important. Diet and exercise, as well as family history, also are factors. People who have had a parent or sibling with colon cancer need to talk to their provider about when they should get an exam.

It’s also important to be aware of the symptoms and any noticeable changes in your body no matter your age. Symptoms of colon cancer may include:

  • Bowel habit changes such as diarrhea, constipation or narrowing of the stool that lasts for more than a few days.
  • Bloody or dark stools.
  • Bloating, pain, tenderness or cramping in the lower abdomen.
  • Rectal bleeding, unintended weight loss or weakness and fatigue.

Conditions other than colon cancer may cause these signs, but it’s best to talk with your provider about any concerns.

“If you’re hitting your 50th birthday soon or already have celebrated it, you need to get a colonoscopy,” Jacobs said. “Take responsibility for your own health, and schedule one today.”

 

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Colon cancer: A deadly disease that can be stopped

“The lining of your colon is like your skin. You would not tell your dermatologist you don’t have skin cancer without an examination.” Colon cancer is the No. 2 killer among all U.S. cancers, and it can be prevented. Here’s how.

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