March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month
This month, we’re reminded that colorectal cancer usually has no symptoms, so screening for early detection is essential.
Tragically, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. A full 60% of colon cancer deaths could be prevented with screening.
The diagnostic screening tool for colon and rectal cancer is called a colonoscopy, a procedure that isn’t painful and is performed under sedation by a general surgeon or gastroenterologist. An outpatient procedure, a provider uses a scope to examine the inside of the large intestine. If early cancerous or precancerous lesions are discovered, they’re removed.
A screening is recommended for both men and women, typically beginning at age 45. For patients with a family history of colon cancer or other risk factors, a provider will usually recommend a screening before age 45. In addition, women who have a personal or family history of ovarian, endometrial or breast cancer may need to be screened before age 45.
Ask your primary care provider about your recommended screening schedule, and the starting age that’s right for you.
Colorectal cancer is often curable when detected early. Unfortunately, only around a third of all colorectal cancers are diagnosed at this early stage.
How can you decrease your risk of colorectal cancer? A healthy, active lifestyle and a low-fat diet rich in fruits and vegetables is foundational to good health and the prevention of many diseases, including colorectal cancer.
Medicare and most health insurance plans cover the cost of screening. Colonoscopy is now available on site in Leadville at St. Vincent Health in its new surgical suite, offered by general surgeons Barry Hammaker, MD, and Zach Hartman, MD.