Every year, there are 146,000 new cases of colon cancer diagnosed in the United States.
But the disease is preventable, says Dr. Joel Lans of Saltzer Health. Lans is a board-certified gastroenterologist with 30 years’ experience. During Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month in March, Dr. Lans is seeking to educate the public about the importance of screening and potentially life-saving colonoscopies.
In an interview with the Saltzer Health Medical Minute on KTVB, he recommends that most men and women start regular screenings at age 50. African-American adults, who are at a higher risk, should begin at age 45. Patients with a family history of colon cancer should start at an earlier age, he says.
Colon cancer starts with a polyp, which is a warty growth on the lining of the intestine. Some polyps won’t turn into cancer; adenomatous polyps, however, have the potential to turn into cancer.
“Polyps and early cancers have no signs, so that is why you want to start screening early,” Dr. Lans says.
Signs of an advanced cancer can include weight loss, change in bowel habits, abdominal pain, rectal bleeding and anemia, he says.
A colonoscopy is a safe, simple method to screen for colon cancer, says Lans. The process includes a liquid diet and split dose prep the night before and morning of procedure. At the endoscopy lab, there is an intake and physical, patients are given an IV and sedation before the colonoscopy.
“Patients wake up and don’t even know what happened,” he says.
He wants to reassure patients who are anxious about the procedure. “If a board-certified gastroenterologist is doing the procedure and who is very experienced there is very little risk to the procedure itself.”
To learn more, watch the full interview with Dr. Lans.
For more information about Colon Cancer Awareness Month, please see resources provided by the American Gastroenterological Association.