Adena Health Focus March 17, 2018

If You Could Prevent Colon Cancer, Would You?

Colon cancer is preventable, treatable and beatable. When all that is true, why is it still the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States?

Typically people are scared, embarrassed or the test prep alone is enough to make them nervous and avoid diagnosis or treatment. The number one way to prevent colon cancer is to have a colonoscopy.The fear of getting a colonoscopy should be nothing compared to the fear of getting cancer. 

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month and the perfect chance to not let fear get in your way. 

“No one is ever eager to undergo a colonoscopy,” said Adena General Surgeon Dr. Christin Spahn. “In fact, colonoscopies should not hurt. They can at times be uncomfortable, but if you are exhibiting signs that you are uncomfortable during your procedure, the physician will stop and administer medication to make you more comfortable and usually due to medication side effects, many people do not remember any of it.”

In most cases, it's not clear what causes colon cancer. “Most colon and rectal cancers are thought to arise from genetic mutations in polyps and time,” she said. “Certain factors are associated with an increased risk of developing polyps such as obesity, increased fat/red meat intake, alcohol and tobacco use.” 

Colon cancer typically begins as a non-cancerous polyp that over time develops into cancer. Often times, symptoms do not appear and therefore polyps often go undetected. 

“Polyps are abnormal growths that can occur in the colon and rectum,” explained Dr. Spahn. “There are different types of polyps which have different risks of turning into cancer over time. During colonoscopies polyps are found and removed, which can remove the risk of the polyps turning into cancer with time.” 

With appropriate screening, colon cancer can be detected early or even prevented in many cases.  This is why colonoscopies are so important. If polyps are found during a colonoscopy, your doctor can remove them, eliminating the potential for cancer to develop. 

Adena’s Endoscopy team would like to remind everyone that individuals who are over the age of 50 and have a personal or family history of cancer or polyps are at greater risk of developing the disease and should be talking with your physician with getting scheduled for a colonoscopy. 

If you are not due for a colonoscopy, don’t forget to remind your friends, family and co-workers about the importance of early screening. 

“Screening is a necessary part of having the privilege of having birthdays,” said Dr. Spahn. “Colonoscopies are the only screening tool we have that can actually help prevent cancer. If you could do something that would potentially help diagnose a cancer, hopefully at an early stage and better yet, help prevent you from potentially developing cancer, I do not know why anyone would not do it.” 

To schedule your screening today, talk to your primary care physician or call 740-779-8530. For more information on colon cancer visit adena.org/colon.