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Published on March 08, 2019

illustration of polyp removal during colonoscopy

Schedule Screenings Today to Prevent Colon Cancer

The steps needed to prevent colon cancer are now easier than they have ever been.

Early, regular screening helps prevent colon cancer or detect cancer in its earliest stages, when it is most treatable.

Colonoscopy is considered the "gold standard" in the fight against colon cancer because it goes beyond detection: during the exam, a physician can remove pre-cancerous polyps, thus preventing cancer from developing in the first place.

"Everyone should get screened, whether or not you have a family history of colon cancer. It’s the best way to prevent colon cancer," said Tad Jacobs, DO, Avera Medical Group Chief Medical Officer. "It’s a serious threat and remains the second-leading type of cancer and the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States."

When To Have the Exam

For the general population, men and women age 50 should undergo a colon cancer screening exam, and then have additional screenings every 10 years until age 75. Some people may need earlier or more frequent screenings based on a family or polyps found in past exams.

"Be sure to talk with your provider at your annual exam about which screenings you should undertake," Jacobs said. "Based on your medical history, sedation needs and personal sensitivity, you and your provider will choose which screening test is best for you. A colonoscopy is the best screening because of its sensitivity to detecting abnormal growths and its thorough examination, but there are options."

Jacobs said that while some individuals may have concerns over the procedure, they should know it is low-risk. Most of the time it’s done under sedation — so a patient will wake up and it’s over.

"Some patients will opt for take-home screening kits, but in all cases, talk to your doctor about your worries and take steps to have an exam," Jacobs said. "Timing can be life-saving with colorectal cancer."

Colon Cancer Symptoms

Traditionally, colon cancer has been more common among older adults. However, a recent study published by the American Cancer Society shows a significant increase in colon cancer among young adults. For this reason, it’s also important to be aware of the symptoms and any noticeable changes in your body no matter your age.

Symptoms of colon cancer may include:

  • Change in bowel habits such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool. Any of these changes that last for more than a few days is a symptom.
  • Blood in the stool, which may make it look dark.
  • Feeling like you need to have a bowel movement that is not relieved by doing so.
  • Bloating, pain, tenderness or cramping in the lower abdomen.
  • Rectal bleeding or unintended weight loss.
  • Weakness and fatigue.

Conditions other than colon cancer may cause these signs, but it’s best to talk with your provider about any concerns.

"If you’re 50 and you haven’t had a colonoscopy, you need to get one. Take responsibility for your own health and schedule one today," Jacobs said.

Contact your primary care provider to schedule your colonoscopy or find a location here.

Live Better. Live Balanced. Avera.

Avera is a health ministry rooted in the Gospel. Our mission is to make a positive impact in the lives and health of persons and communities by providing quality services guided by Christian values.

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