30 minutes: that is the length of time on a lunch break or catching up on a TV show. It is also all the time that is needed for a potentially life-saving look inside your body for cancerous polyps, but many people still put this off. Learn why early detection is the only way to change grim statistics for colon cancer.
Alvin Credeur of Lake Charles is a retired Army serviceman that does not play around with his health. So when blood was found in his stool, his mind immediately went to the thought of colon cancer. "When people mention the big 'C' word," he said, "everybody gets nervous. So I did, for a while."
Credeur brought those concerns to Dr. Dennis Fletcher at Lake Area Family Medicine, who recommended a colonoscopy - using a camera to look inside the body at the colon. "It's inserted into the rectum while the patient is sedated or asleep and then the doctor can look through the colon, looking for growths or polyps," said Dr. Fletcher.
When found early, those cancerous polyps can be removed and survival rate soars to about 90 percent. But Dr. Fletcher says many people wait until it is too late. "It is the third most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States," he said.
That is a statistic that hits close to home for Dr. Fletcher, who lost his wife to colon cancer seven years ago. "She lived another 3 3/4 years and was able to see at least two other grandchildren be born," he said.
A family history can make you more prone to the disease yourself and will change the recommended colonoscopy age from 50 to 40.
These are the other risk factors, according to Dr. Fletcher: male gender, advancing age, African-American ethnicity, high fatty diets, certain gastrointestinal disease.
Colonoscopies, for most patients, are a painless procedure. Most people say the primary discomfort comes from the prep, which involves drinking a lot of liquids to cleanse the bowel. "That was the worst part of it," said Credeur, "but a person has to suffer every now and then for something good and my situation turned out really good."
Doctors found no polyps in Credeur, giving him peace of mind until his next colonoscopy in five to ten years. "It was a big time relief," he said, "a big, big relief. I didn't have to worry about the big 'C' word anymore or nothing like that."
Colon cancer can present symptoms ranging from a change in bowel habits to abdominal and rectal pain, bleeding from the rectum and weight loss. Talk to your doctor immediately if you have any of these symptoms.