Colorectal cancer is the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer and is the second-leading cause of cancer death in men and women combined in the country. March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.
“Over the years, there have been a lot of different colon cancer screening options,” said Dr. Jared Pehrson with MedExpress Urgent Care. “Some of them have kind of come and gone. The gold standard over the years has been the colonoscopy. There’s a newer chemical test where you can actually check the stool for chemical. That may be a great option in the right candidate.”
If you’re considering having a colonoscopy, it’s important to know what to expect from the procedure.
“Usually, they’ll give you some kind of mild sedative, just to kind of relax you, make you a little bit drowsy” said Dr. Pehrson. “Most of the time, people are still awake during a colonoscopy. They take a long tube that has a camera and a light built into it and they insert that into the rectum and advance it all the way to the beginning of the colon. Then they fill the colon up with a little bit of air. As they withdraw the scope from the colon, then they’re looking for colon cancers and also these little things called polyps.”
A polyp is a small clump of cells that forms on the lining of the colon. If the doctor finds one, they’ll remove it and get it tested for cancer.
“It’s usually not painful for the vast majority of people,” said Dr. Pehrson. “With the sedative medicine, I even have some people that reported not remembering much of the procedure at all. It really isn’t that uncomfortable a procedure for the vast majority of people.”
The key is detecting colorectal cancer early. According to the American Cancer Society, when colorectal cancer is localized, before it has spread, the five-year relative survival rate is about 90 percent. When the cancer progresses and spreads outside the colon or rectum, survival rates are much lower.