A patient meeting with a doctor about a colon cancer screening.
Healthy Living

Colon Cancer Screening: “It’s Important to Act When it Comes to Prevention”

Aug 12 2021

Denise Rodney, MD, a primary care provider at Mercy Health – South Limestone Family Medicine and Lingaiah Chandrashekar, MD, a gastroenterologist at Mercy Health – Paducah Gastroenterology, share their thoughts on the importance of colonoscopy screenings.

There are many reasons people put off having a colonoscopy. The required preparations, being afraid the procedure is too invasive and having to take a day off work are some of the main concerns. Even though colonoscopies can be considered inconvenient, colorectal cancer is life-threatening.

Excluding skin cancers, colon cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates that this year doctors will diagnose 101,420 new cases of colon cancer. It’s also expected to cause about 52,980 deaths.

Additionally, the American Cancer Society (ACS) says the African American community has the highest rates of colorectal cancer of any racial/ethnic group in the United States. African Americans are about 20 percent more likely to get colorectal cancer and about 40 percent more likely to die from it than most other groups.

The key to preventing colon cancer is screening, and the best way to screen for colon cancer is through a colonoscopy. Colon cancer screening can detect precancerous polyps and early cancers in the large intestine. This screening helps save lives by catching cancer early enough that it can be treated effectively before it spreads.

We encourage our patients to schedule their screening according to the current guidelines:

  • If you have no family history of colon cancer or polyps, you should start having colonoscopies at age 50. (I had my colonoscopy before age 50 and it was a breeze!)
  • There is evidence that African Americans have a higher risk of developing colon cancer. If you are African American, consider having a colonoscopy done at age 45.
  • If your colonoscopy checkup is clear, there is no need to repeat the screening for 10 years.
  • In cases where polyps were removed, the typical timeframe to repeat the procedure is three to five years.

Uncomfortable with a colonoscopy? Talk to your primary care provider about the procedure. Ask if you are a candidate for alternative testing and how effective that testing is at detection. It’s important to make an informed decision and act when it comes to cancer prevention.

Learn more about the colon and rectal cancer services we offer at Mercy Health.

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