Campaign “STOP COLON CANCER NOW” is encouraging Americans to help stop the second deadliest cancer in the country. California Life’s David Wylie explores why getting a colonoscopy isn’t just for people over 50.
It may be uncomfortable- and dreading- to think about getting tested, but the reality is that colon cancer continues to be one of the deadliest diseases facing Americans today.
“Colon Cancer is common. It’s the fourth cancer in occurrence in men and women in the United States. It effects both men and women equally.”Dr. Elias Tarakji, Gastroenterologist
Early symptoms can often be minor or even non-existent….making testing all the more important.
“The best time to diagnose colon cancer is when there are no symptoms. Colon cancer in early stages does not cause symptoms. That’s why we advocate screening at age 50 for everybody who has…everybody who turns 50 in the absence of symptoms to come in and get screened because that’s when we can make a difference.”Dr. Elias Tarakji, Gastroenterologist
Colon cancer doesn’t just strike people over 50. It affects younger people as well…Friends and colleagues were stunned and saddened by the recent passing of Ontario Fire department battalion chief Chip Smith who died in February after a short battle with stage four colon cancer…he was only 46. That’s why an increasing number of younger adults are taking preventative measures by getting a colonoscopy like 32 year old Mirna Gonzalez.
“It kind of scares me. I just want make sure everything is fine with me…I don’t have any history of colon cancer in my family but I’m just really curious.”Mirna Gonzalez, colonoscopy patient
The colonoscopy process actually begins the day before the procedure at home where the patient goes through a cleansing cycle where laxatives are used to clear the colon.
The day of the procedure begins with a routine medical review:
After being prepped, the patient is put into a deep sleep while a flexible tube with a camera is used for the procedure. What makes a colonoscopy different from a lot of medical tests is that the doctor not only does an examination, but he has the tools to remove growths.
“So this loop here…this oval shaped loop is a wire that can go around polyps. It allows us to remove things. It goes around polyp’s. It delivers electrical current. It can cut tissue. Take it out. That’s one of the things we use.”Dr. Elias Tarakji, Gastroenterologist
For Mirna –the news was good…no polyps no sign of cancer…and she didn’t have any pain afterwards nor did she remember the procedure. And while the colonoscopy may still seem a little tough to imagine especially for the squeamish, Doctor Tarakji says it really can save lives.
“We can prevent colon cancer by removing polyps or diagnosing early where a simple operation can take care of the problem where as if we wait until the late stages where the disease present with symptoms we lose out on a opportunity to cure it or prevent it.”Dr. Elias Tarakji, Gastroenterologist
Symptoms for advanced colon cancer can include:
- abrupt changes in bowel habits
- changes in appetite and weight
- blood in the stool
- abdominal pain
Dr. Tarakji says the best way to prevent colon cancer is with a low fat, high fiber diet and early screening. Websites like stopcoloncancernow.com and valleydigestivehealthcenter.com are excellent sources of information, but your best stop will be to make an appointment with your doctor.