Best Tool in Fighting Colon Cancer: Colonoscopy

By Britney Glaser - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Colon cancer is the second most deadly cancer for both men and women. But if detected early enough, it can be treated and a person can go on to live a full life. In this Healthcast, 7News talks to one man just moments after he underwent his colonoscopy.

At 69 years old, James Ashmore, who had never had a colonoscopy before was told it was time.  "My doctor suggested since I never had one," says James, "it's time to have one."

Just one hour prior to meeting James, he was sedated for the 30 minute procedure to detect polyps that could potentially be cancerous.  "I went out and they did what they had to do and I was back in the room in a few minutes," says James.

Doctor Ricardo McCall with GI Associates of Southwest Louisiana says 50,000 people will die from colon cancer this year. But those numbers could drastically improve if people would undergo a screening at age 50.  "Screening in a normal person should start at age 50 and looking into the colon, looking for polyps is the important part of the screening," says Dr. McCall, "the polyps over time turn into cancer and if we're able to go in and intervene at the time of a polyp, that reduces your risk for colon cancer."

There are also several symptoms to watch out for that are linked to colon cancer.  "A change in bowel habits, having more constipation than usual, having diarrhea that's more than two weeks," says Dr. McCall, "seeing blood in your stool, ill-defined abdominal pain or there may be absolutely no symptoms with colon cancer."

The most important tool in reducing your risk for colon cancer is a colonoscopy.  Dr. McCall says that people should not let fear stand in the way of having this procedure - it's short and painless.  "A patient is sedated for the procedure," says Dr. McCall, "they take a prep the day before, which allows me to get complete visualization of the colon. We go around the entire colon and visualize all aspects of the colon."

For people like James, who are found to have a couple of polyps - their samples are sent to the pathology lab for testing. If there is no cancerous growth, it's typically three to five years until another follow-up is required.

*If you have a family history of colon cancer, you should talk to your family physician about when you should be screened.