Early diagnosis of colon cancer is easier than ever. That means your odds of beating it are better than ever, too.
Premier Surgical colorectal surgeon Gregory Midis, MD, FACS, points to better education about colon cancers, risk factors, symptoms, and early detection. “People are definitely more aware of the importance of having a screening colonoscopy starting at age 50, or earlier if you’re at risk for colon cancer,” Midis says.
“Physicians are required to educate patients about the colon screening guidelines,” says Midis. “They discuss it with their patients, so most people can’t say they don’t know about colon screenings. It’s just a matter of patients making the decision to do it.”
“There’s also more in-depth genetic testing available for people at risk who may have inherited colon cancers,” says Midis. “There’s a better awareness in the medical community that inherited colon cancers may require a different surgical strategy, potentially removing the entire colon, instead of just part of it.”
There can be a variety of reasons people neglect that all-important screening colonoscopy. Besides plain and simple procrastination, Midis says there is some misinformation about the discomfort involved.
Midis says the test is simple and can save lives. “There is very little excuse not to have a colonoscopy,” he says. “Don’t put it off.”
As in the case of patient Michelle Henry, the initial symptoms of colon cancer can sometimes be mistaken for irritable bowel syndrome, or even hemorrhoids. That’s another reason patients may put off getting a colonoscopy, and getting the right diagnosis.
“With IBS you often have acid reflux and belly pain, and there are some crossover symptoms,” Midis explains. “With hemorrhoids you have rectal bleeding, which can also be a sign of colon cancer.”
Midis says in the majority of cases, those symptoms and conditions are not related to colon cancer. “But if you are someone who has a high risk of colon cancer and you develop symptoms, why take chances?” Midis says. “Have it checked out.”
With early screening, colon cancers can often be detected before severe symptoms develop. Midis says by the time a person does have symptoms, “the train has left the station.”
Midis emphasizes that early detection is the key to better odds at beating the disease. “We should detect and address a colon polyp before it becomes too large to be removed by a scope,” Midis says. “If there is adequate enough detection time, issues can be addressed before surgery is necessary.”
Midis says the bottom line is that colon cancer is very treatable, if it’s caught early. Talk to your doctor about scheduling a colonoscopy, and to learn more about oncology services at Premier Surgical visit our Surgical Oncology webpage.