The thought of colon cancer can be scary.
It’s the fourth most commonly occurring cancer in the United States and nearly five percent of Americans will develop colorectal cancer in their lifetime. This year, approximately 140,000 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and 56,000 people will die from the disease. March is Colon Cancer Awareness month and the surgeons of University Surgical Associates encourage you to do something to help beat colon cancer before it starts – get a colonoscopy screening.
“When it comes to colon cancer, you can prevent this terrible disease with one simple test – a colonoscopy. Colon cancer is very easily detected and very successfully treated if caught early,” says Shauna Lorenzo-Rivero, MD, colorectal surgeon with University Surgical Associates. “But the fact is in Tennessee and in Chattanooga specifically, the rate for colon cancer is higher than the national average particularly in the black community. You have to do the test to catch the cancer.”
Is It Time for Your Colonoscopy?
DID YOU KNOW?
Most insurance plans cover routine screening colonoscopies.
Colon cancer has been called a silent disease because symptoms usually aren’t present until the disease is more advanced. That’s why the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons (ASCRS) recommends colonoscopy screening beginning at age 50 and every ten years for people with average risk of colorectal cancer. If you or any family members have had colon cancer or polyps, you should have a colonoscopy every five years.
The benefits of early detection and treatment are dramatic. Most colon cancers start as non-cancerous growths called polyps. If these polyps are removed while they’re still non-cancerous, cancer may be prevented and major surgery can usually be avoided as well.
During a colonoscopy, the doctor uses a long, flexible, tubular instrument called a colonoscope that transmits an image of the inside of the colon. It’s inserted through the rectum and advanced to the other end of the large intestine so the doctor can examine it for abnormalities. If the doctor sees something abnormal, small amounts of tissue are removed for analysis and any growths can be identified and removed.
“Some people try to avoid colonoscopy because they are fearful of the procedure being painful or risky,” says J. Daniel Stanley, MD, colorectal surgeon with University Surgical Associates. “Because a patient receives a heavy sedative the procedure itself is not uncomfortable and the risks of the procedure are outweighed by the risks of developing an undetected colon cancer.”