Preventing Colon Cancer Starts Here


By Advertiser Sanford Health

No one likes to talk about getting a colonoscopy, but this preventive screening could protect you from the country’s second leading cause of cancer-related deaths when men and women are combined – colon cancer.

What you should know

Colon cancer often starts as a benign growth, or polyp, in the lining of the large intestine or rectum. While most polyps are harmless, they can eventually turn into cancer.

“Through a colonoscopy, we can check for polyps,” says Brett Baloun, MD, gastroenterologist at Sanford Center for Digestive Health. “If any are found, they can be removed to prevent cancer from forming or sent for analysis to check for cancer.”

If a polyp is found early, the chances of it developing into cancer are greatly reduced. And, if cancer is detected, it’s 90 percent treatable when discovered in its earliest stages.

“These are two very good reasons to get a colonoscopy as recommended,” says Dr. Baloun. “Especially when the procedure itself is easy. Often fear can hold people back from getting a colonoscopy, but this screening could save a life.”

Early colon cancer can develop without symptoms. But in the later stages, symptoms can include rectal bleeding, stomach cramps, weight loss, change in bowel habits or fatigue.

The procedure

Colonoscopies last approximately 30 minutes and patients are sedated to provide comfort. The procedure itself is not typically the biggest fear factor, but rather patients get anxious about what is required of them beforehand.

“What most people dread is the prep, which requires cleansing the colon as well as possible,” says Dr. Baloun. “Talk with your physician about your options and develop a prep plan based on your circumstances.”

Who needs screening?

Men and women with no history of colon cancer should start regular screenings at age 50. As long as the results are normal, most people can wait another 10 years before having another procedure.

“If you have a personal history of polyps, colorectal cancer or inflammatory bowel disease, or a family history of colon cancer or polyps, your risk for cancer increases,” says Dr. Baloun. “In that case, screenings may need to begin before age 50 and be performed more often.”

Additional risk factors include smoking, obesity, inactive lifestyle, heavy alcohol use and Crohn’s disease.

It’s time to start

If you’ve been putting off the inevitable, make scheduling a colonoscopy a priority.

“This is the definition of preventive medicine, which is the best medicine we have,” says Dr. Baloun. “There just aren’t any excuses for not taking some time out of your day to protect your health, well-being and possibly your life.”

Call (855) 726-3329 to schedule your colonoscopy or visit to learn more.

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