Mike McConnell interviewed colorectal surgeon Dr. John Cullen regarding colon cancer prevention and treatment. Here’s what we learned from his expert opinion.
How to prevent colon cancer
Colon Cancer prevention is done through screening, which includes having a colonoscopy. There are many barriers to getting a colonoscopy such as, bowel preparation, time off work and the invasive nature of the procedure that often causes people to put it off. It’s important for people to talk to their doctor about these concerns to better understand the procedure and see if they are a candidate for an alternative test.
Colonoscopies are important to cancer treatment as well. If caught in the early stages, colon cancer has an over 90 percent survival rate. For the later stages the survival rate drops to 10 or 15 percent.
The survival rate for colon cancer has improved over time. However, there is a concerning trend in the survival rate among young patients. A contributing factor to this could be a lack of early detection. Being young does not always protect someone from colon cancer and so it is important to stay vigilant.
How surgery can treat colon cancer
After colon cancer is detected it is often treated with surgery. As Dr. Cullen explained, if we think of the intestines as a long pipe, as a surgeon he will remove a section of the pipe that has cancer. Along with this, he will remove some lymph nodes and a healthy area of tissue around the cancer called a margin, then put it all back together.
The advancements in these surgeries have focused on making them less invasive. Keyhole, laparoscopic and robotic cancer surgery, allow colorectal surgeons to perform large operations through small incisions. Dr. Cullen and his partner Dr. Barrat even perform a procedure called TEMS where they can remove the tumor without any scars on the patient’s skin.
While getting a colonoscopy may be inconvenient it prevents undetected and untreated colon cancer. Talk to your doctor about your colon health and family history to determine if and when you should get a colonoscopy. When you’re ready, make an appointment with your provider.