Each year in March the American College of Gastroenterology and the Colorectal Cancer Awareness Alliance raise public awareness about the importance of colorectal cancer screenings. While colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States, it is also one of the most preventable cancers. Mercy Clinic Gastroenterology in Washington supports this important movement to bring greater awareness to a cancer that is often curable when detected early.
Few people really look forward to a colonoscopy, but when you consider that it could save your life, it's a simple step worth taking. "We know from experience that catching those polyps or large lesions early actually saves lives," said Sheetal Sharma, MD, FACG, Mercy Clinic Gastroenterology - Patients First Drive. "So, despite the colonoscopy prep and the fun that that entails, we really encourage it because we know that one bad day... may save your life."
Experts recommend most people have a colonoscopy starting at age 45. People with a higher risk, such as having a family history of colon cancer, should be tested sooner.
During a colonoscopy exam, a flexible tube is inserted into the rectum and moved through the large intestine. A tiny video camera at the tip of the tube allows the doctor to examine the lining and see any polyps that may be present. If colon polyps are found, they can be removed at the same time. You're under sedation during the exam, so you won't feel a thing. Before your exam, you will need to fast from solid foods and drink liquids to empty your colon. That's essential to getting a clear picture of the lining of your intestine. But today, there are options to make the prep easier than ever.
"Colorectal cancer is the number three cancer killer in the United States, yet it is one of the most preventable types of cancer," said Nick Frederickson, MD, Mercy Clinic Gastroenterology in Washington. "The best first step that anyone can take to reduce their odds is to have a colorectal cancer screening, of which colonoscopy is considered the gold standard."
Mercy specialists will guide you through every step of your colonoscopy. They bring experience and expertise to this very effective form of cancer detection and treatment, and they'll work hard to keep you informed and at ease through the entire process.
Colorectal cancer can be hereditary. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer or have been diagnosed yourself, your doctor may recommend genetic counseling and possible testing. This testing is a safe, simple way to discover if you or your family is at risk for certain cancers.
If you're 45 years old or older, or younger with a family history of colorectal cancer, ask your primary care physician about having a screening scheduled.
Few people really look forward to a colonoscopy. But when you consider that it could save your life, it's a simple step worth taking. A colonoscopy is the best way to detect and prevent colon cancer, the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S., and the easiest cancer to prevent.