by Ramalinga Kedika
March is colon cancer awareness month. Have you had your screening colonoscopy yet?
Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Approximately one out of 25 Americans will develop colon cancer in their lifetime. The median age of diagnosis is 67. However, we are seeing a rise in colon cancer in younger patients. Of the new diagnoses, 10 percent occur in patients under 50 years old.
Although colon cancer is a common and deadly cancer, there are very effective screening techniques. Colonoscopy is a powerful screening technique because you can not only diagnose polyps that are precursors to colon cancer, but also remove them during the procedure. It is this removal of polyps which reduces colon cancer risk. If everyone had a colonoscopy when they should, colon cancer would almost be non-existent!
However, many Americans are not participating in colon cancer screening. Approximately one in three aged 50 to 75 have not been tested for colon cancer. Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This is true across the medical field, but especially pertinent when it comes to colon cancer screening. It is a lot easier to prevent colon cancer than to treat it once it occurs.
Colonoscopy is often performed using deep sedation which allows the patient to not have any awareness during the procedure. In fact, the most memorable part of a colonoscopy is not the procedure, but rather the prep you have to drink the night before. Laxative preps have reduced in volume over the years and are easier to consume. The procedure is also very safe. The risk of a serious complication such as perforation is one in 1,000. Colonoscopies performed for screening are often covered by insurance plans … so take advantage of this!