Early Detection: The Key to Surviving Colon Cancer
Colon cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer for men and women in the United States, and it’s a leading cause of cancer death. The death rate has been dropping for the last several decades, and this may be in part because of regular colon cancer screenings that make early detection of colon cancer possible.
How Does Early Detection Help?
Colon cancer is slow-growing and starts as a polyp. A polyp is a small growth in the wall of the colon. Polyps rarely cause symptoms. If left alone for many years, polyps can turn into cancer. The only way to know that there are polyps growing in the colon is by regular colon cancer screening. Screening is looking for cancer in those who have no symptoms.
A colonoscopy is the gold standard for preventing and detecting cancer. This type of screening can discover colon cancer when it’s small, hasn’t spread, and is easier to treat. If a polyp is detected during a colonoscopy, it can be painlessly removed. This stops the polyp from growing and turning into cancer. When colon cancer is found before it spreads, the prognosis is great. The five-year survival rate is about 90%. However, only 40% of cancers are found this early. After cancer has spread outside of the colon, the survival rates are lower.
Since colonoscopies have become a regular part of screening for colon cancer in the United States, the risk of developing and dying from colon cancer has decreased. Still, a third of people in the United States who should get tested for colon cancer haven’t been screened. They may not know that regular screening can prevent and detect colon cancer.
Do You Need a Colonoscopy?
If you’re 45 years old or older and have never had a colonoscopy, it’s time to get one! After your first colonoscopy, your gastroenterologist will determine when you need your next one.
Those with certain risk factors may need to start getting colonoscopies earlier. These risk factors include having a close relative who has had colon cancer or being a Black American. If you are younger than 45 and think you need a colonoscopy, make an appointment with your gastroenterologist.
It’s estimated that 20% of people over 50 have a colon polyp growing in them right now. If they get a colonoscopy, the polyp can usually be removed. This almost eliminates the risk of developing colon cancer if they follow up as their gastroenterologist recommends.
It’s an old joke that the worst part of a colonoscopy is the prep. Some people are more nervous about their colonoscopies because of the prep! At Gastroenterology Consultants of San Antonio, we offer an Easy Prep colonoscopy, so you don’t have to choke down a liter of gross, chalky tasting drink before your screening.
Are you due for a colonoscopy? Schedule your appointment today.