RENSSELAER – Colorectal cancer may not be on your short list of great conversation topics. But in the end, discussing how to screen for the disease with your family doctor could be a lifesaving decision.
Testing can detect precancerous growths, or polyps, which doctors can remove. And testing can detect cancer before any of its symptoms emerge.
Among cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon or rectum) is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States.
“Colon cancer screening with colonoscopy is a safe, mostly painless and potentially lifesaving procedure that should be performed on any person age 50 or older, regardless of whether or not they have symptoms or problems,” said Aine Pattengale, FNP-BC, a nurse practitioner with Franciscan Physician Network Rensselaer Medical Center in Rensselaer.
“This should be done at a younger age if there is a significant family history of colon polyps or cancer in the family especially first degree relatives.”
Colonoscopies usually are not painful. Sedation is often given to make patients more comfortable during the procedure. A gastroenterologist, a physician who specializes in diagnosing and treating problems of the digestive system, or a specially trained colorectal surgeon should perform the tests.
Recent news reports have highlighted in-home stool testing kits that can be mailed to a lab for results. Many medical experts describe these as “second-line recommendation” to be used only for those who absolutely will not or cannot have a colonoscopy.
Pattengale added that screening in any fashion is important, but emphasized that colonoscopy is the preferred method of screening.
Every year, about 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and more than 50,000 people die from it. But this disease is highly preventable, by getting screened beginning at age 50.
“Tens of thousands of lives could be saved each year if every American were tested as recommended,” Pattengale said.
To schedule an appointment or more information about requesting a colonoscopy, go to FranciscanHealth.org/GetAColonoscopy, or call Franciscan Physician Network Rensselaer Medical Center at (219) 866-4300 for a referral.