March is National Colon Cancer Awareness Month, a reminder to all about the importance of regular colonoscopies. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death for both men and women. Even so, 90 percent of people who are diagnosed through early detection can be cured.
Colon cancer typically develops with no symptoms. Undergoing a colonoscopy at age 50 is recommended for most people to fully assess risk.
“Colonoscopy remains the gold standard for catching precancerous polyps early,” said Dr. S. Charles Oh, gastroenterologist with Mountainside Medical Group. “Once a baseline has been established, colonoscopies should be on your long-term health to-do list.”
Unexplained weight loss, changes in bowel habits, bleeding or unusual fatigue are all signs you should see a specialist.
Family history of colon cancer or certain colon conditions can increase your risk of developing polyps. It’s important to discuss this with your primary care physician so it can be determined when you should start screening and how frequently you should be screened.
Preparing for a colonoscopy can be nerve-wracking, but it is a very common and routine procedure.
“The most uncomfortable part of a colonoscopy is typically the laxative given before the test, which helps clean the colon so any growths or abnormalities can more easily be detected,” said Dr. Oh. “During the actual test, patients are comfortable sedated and the screening lasts between 15 and 30 minutes.”
If you’re due for a colonoscopy, speak with your primary care provider about seeing a gastroenterologist. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Oh, call 973-748-9166.