You may not want to think about it, but March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. According to Steve Georgopoulos, MD, a gastroenterologist on the medical staff of Southampton Hospital, colorectal (colon) cancer is the second deadliest cancer for men and women combined in the US (lung cancer causes the most deaths).
The good news? It’s preventable. You’ll need a colonoscopy, a procedure performed by a gastroenterologist. Once you’ve had the procedure, you’ll realize it’s not a big deal. There is no good reason not to have this test, particularly since it could save your life.
“Colonoscopy is a screening test that can catch any signs of cancer at the earliest stage, when treatment is most effective. The survival rate for early stage colon cancer patients is over 80 percent, compared to 12 percent in patients whose cancer has spread,” said Dr. Georgopoulos.
Everyone should get a baseline colonoscopy at age 50, or earlier if you have a family history of colorectal cancer. Depending on the results, the next screening could be up to 10 years later. Colon cancer is a serious disease that leads to death, but it is treatable and preventable. Routine colonoscopy as prescribed by your primary care doctor can decrease your chances of developing a life-threatening form of this illness.
So, what can you expect? Colonoscopy is an outpatient procedure, which means you don’t have to stay overnight at the hospital. In fact, most patients are finished and out the door within 2 hours. The actual procedure lasts about 15-20 minutes and it is not uncomfortable because you are under anesthesia.
Once your routine colonoscopy is complete, keep your colon healthy with a high fiber diet containing lots of fruits and vegetables. Exercising regularly and maintaining a lean body mass also helps reduce the risk of colorectal cancer and other diseases.
“We can wipe out colon cancer on the East End of Long Island,” Dr. Georgopoulos advised. “It’s preventable!” So, get your colonoscopy and tell a friend to do it, too.
For more information, contact your primary care doctor.