“I am really looking forward to my colonoscopy,” said no one ever. Let’s face it; a colonoscopy ranks right up there with a root canal for least favorite necessary evil. The good news is that some of the prep has improved in the last few years, and there are new less invasive screenings available. If caught early enough, colorectal cancer can be treated and cured.
The Quiet Cancer
Unfortunately there are virtually no early symptoms of colorectal cancer. The very earliest sign may be a routine blood test with a high red cell blood count.
When symptoms do present themselves, diarrhea, constipation, and changes in the shape and color of stools are noticed. Patients may bleed, have excessive flatulence (gas), and experience weight loss.
Call your doctor immediately if you notice any of these early symptoms.
Who’s At Risk?
There are multiple risk factors associated with colorectal cancer, and some of which are out of your control. For example, if someone in your family has a history of colorectal cancer, you may be more susceptible. In addition, as you age, you are more at risk, and anyone of Eastern European descent, African American, and Jewish descent tend to more prone to having the disease. Having Type 2 diabetes is also problematic.
No matter your age you can make changes to your lifestyle to reduce the risks.
- Lose weight if you are obese.
- Cut back on alcohol
- Curb your consumption of high cholesterol foods and red meat.
- Abandon your “couch potato” lifestyle.
Value Of The Colonoscopy
The American Cancer Society recommends that a patient have a colonoscopy starting at age 50. If the risk factors are high, doctors may recommend an earlier start to testing and more frequent follow up tests.
A colonoscopy has two important objectives.
- To detect precancerous polyps in the colon and rectum, which can easily be removed.
- To detect the presence of colon cancer in its early stages.
Statistics tell us that 1 in 22 males and 1 in 24 women will be diagnosed with colon cancer in their life. Colorectal Cancer Awareness month reminds us to take control and be proactive.
Start thinking of a colonoscopy as a preventative measure and not only a discovery tool.
If you are over the age of 50 and have even a minimal risk for colon cancer, talk to Piedmont Colorectal Associates about scheduling your colonoscopy.