Bennie Upchurch, MD, FACP, AGAF, FACG, FASGE is an Adena Gastroenterologist who joined Adena Health System in 2020 after years of serving patients in private and institutional practice throughout central Ohio. As a physician certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine, Dr. Upchurch treats all ranges of and all ages with gastrointestinal issues. He can’t stress enough the importance of age- and history-appropriate colonoscopies to help save the lives of patients.
Don’t Vent, PRE-Vent
There are around 140,000 of cases colorectal cancer (CRC) diagnosed each year in the U.S. CRC can occur in the colon or rectum when abnormal cells appear in a tissue growth or polyp. Polyps are often initially noncancerous and occur in nearly half of average-risk men and women age 50 and older. But if left untreated, the polyps can develop the abnormal cells that lead to cancer.
“Colorectal cancer is preventable cancer,” says Dr. Upchurch. “It’s one of only a few preventable cancers because by following advised screening practices, patients get any potentially harmful polyps removed during their colonoscopies.” So why would patients not get their prescribed colonoscopies? There could be a few excuses why patients don’t get their regular colon screening, but typically, once a patient has a colonoscopy, they realize it’s generally simple, painless and the definitive way to prevent colorectal cancer.
“Some patients have anxiety over getting their colonoscopies – they’ve heard the prep is unpleasant, the procedure is uncomfortable or risky, or they might have an adverse reaction to the anesthesia,” says Dr. Upchurch. “But there have been a lot of improvements to colonoscopy procedures, and our Adena Gastroenterology (GI) team uses innovative techniques.” The Adena GI team screen and assess patients before their visit. Currently, patients are required to have a pre-colonoscopy COVID-19 test to ensure their health safety. Once patients are cleared and ready for prep, the Adena GI team works with them and walks them though every step of the process.
Watch Your Back
Generally, as with many cancers, as people get older, their risk of getting colorectal cancer increases. Women 50 and older have an increased chance of getting cancer of the proximal colon, or first and middle parts of the colon, than men of the same age.* Other commonly found risks that increase chances or colorectal cancer are existing medical conditions such as a bowel disorder (i.e. Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis) or personal/family history, or a lifestyle habit such as: lack of exercise, poor diet (low fiber/high fat), obesity, or regular use of alcohol or tobacco. To know what factors may put you at personal risk, visit the Adena colon cancer health risk online assessment tool.
Early colorectal cancer may often appear without symptoms, which is why it is so essential to get proper screenings. If a patient does have symptoms, they could be:
- Bleeding from the rectum
- Blood in the stool or in the toilet after having a bowel movement
- Dark or black stools
- Decreased appetite
- Unintentional weight loss
- Weakness/fatigue – shortness of breath
Don’t Poo-Poo the Prep
One thing Dr. Upchurch always stresses to his patients, “Understand the importance of bowel prep.” The better the prep works, the easier it is for the doctor to see everything and make sure that any polyps are removed. “There have been lots of changes to preps over the years to make them more tolerable for patients,” says Dr. Upchurch. The Adena Gastroenterology team can help patients choose a prep method/product that will work best for them. “Proper prep basically ‘washes the grass clippings from the sidewalk’,” says Dr. Upchurch, “and it is key for a successful colonoscopy.”
Adena Primary Care Providers will refer their patients 50 years and older, or sometimes sooner if they have certain risk factors or history, to receive a colonoscopy. Most insurance companies and Medicare will cover a patient colonoscopy after age 50 and follow-up colonoscopies every five to ten years. Patients can also call Adena Gastroenterology directly at 740-779-8530 to schedule their colonoscopy or visit Adena.org. Having your colonoscopy can prevent colorectal cancer. It’s an important health milestone you can’t afford to neglect. If you’re due for a colonoscopy because of age or risk factors, call you doctor or Adena Gastroenterology today!
* American Cancer Society. Colorectal Cancer Facts & Figures 2020-2022. Atlanta, GA: American Cancer Society, 2020. https://www.cancer.org/content/dam/cancer-org/research/cancer-facts-and-statistics/colorectal-cancer-facts-and-figures/colorectal-cancer-facts-and-figures-2020-2022.pdf.