A doctor in a white coat holds a blue ribbon representing colon cancer awareness
Healthy Living

Colon Cancer: Everything you Need to Know from Prevention to Treatment

May 3 2019

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.

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As a female under the age of 40, even with a diagnosis of our ovarian cancer and discomfort in my right lower abdominal area, I had a gastroenterologist argue as to why I needed a colonoscopy. He ate crow when my colonoscopy showed my ovarian cancer was actually mets from Colon Cancer. I would have never had the colonoscopy done until it was far too late because I'm considered to be "too young" by every medical and insurance graph for who should get a colonoscopy.
May 05th, 2019 | 3:27am

Peggy Poston

Treated for colon cancer 11 years ago. Always suggesting colonoscopies to friends and family. Many coworkers had colonoscopies after I was diagnosed. Go routinely for mine. So grateful to Dr. Leuenberger, oncologist and his staff years ago on Marie Drive . And to the surgeon Dr. Sobolewski.Also to the Great Physician.
May 13th, 2019 | 9:13am

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