March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month
In the United States, colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men and in women. And while there is no cure, it is one of few cancers that can be prevented with timely screening.
RAPID CITY, S.D. — The current recommendation from the American Cancer Society and the United States Preventive Services Task force is for healthy people with no signs or symptoms and no family history of colon cancer is to begin screening at age 45 with a colonoscopy.
Dr. Nathan Jaqua, MD, Gastroenterologist at the Rapid City Medical Center, says, “It is really the gold standard, it not only detects it, but it treats it at the same time. We take out the polyp as soon as we see it and spare you surgery or chemotherapy or complications in the future.”
A colonoscopy can both detect and prevent cancer by finding and removing pre-cancerous polyps.
Some patients have opted for stool-based tests, but Jaqua says those may have limitations and don’t test for everything, and source of problems can’t be identified without a colonoscopy.
It’s important for you to discuss your options with your doctor to determine which one is the best for you.
You may also want to talk to your doctor sooner if you have a family history or are experiencing any of the warning symptoms.
Jaqua says, “Anybody that has a history of inflammatory bowel disease anyone who has had polls before in previous colonoscopies and certainly anybody that is having signs or symptoms that are worrisome, like blood in your stool, rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, weight loss, things like that – change in your stool, diarrhea – constipation suddenly.”
Jaqua says some people avoid screenings out of fear the procedure is painful.
He assures there are sedation options and the risk of perforation of the bowels is very low.
“Most of the time they will go to sleep and wake up and it will be done and they will say, ‘wow, that’s it? that was fast’,” adds Jaqua.
Generally, screenings are covered by insurance.
African Americans have a higher risk of getting colorectal cancer.