Colorectal cancer, it’s sometimes called a silent killer. By the time a person starts feeling pain, the disease is usually in a late stage.
“Colon cancer is the third commonest cancer diagnosed in this country and the second commonest killer of cancer of men and women in this country,” says Dr. Nick Sharma, gastroenterologist on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.
That statistic says two things. First: over a quarter million a year in this country are being diagnosed. And secondly: colorectal cancer is proving fatal in many cases, killing more people than breast cancer. When it could have been prevented through early screening.
“Colon cancer arises out of colon polyps which are benign. When we screen, we’re looking for colon polyps. And if we can remove colon polyps we can hopefully prevent colon cancer,” says Dr. Sharma.
The colonoscopy is a game-changer in this disease. In a single procedure, doctors can look into your colon with a camera that detect lesions then remove them for biopsy. All in under an hour.
“We introduce the scope into your colon. It’s a flexible scope that has channels, a light channel, a water channel, a suction channel, and a channel that allows us to introduce instruments through the colonoscope to remove these polyps,” says Dr. Sharma.
As we age, the risk of colon cancer doubles every decade, which is why a screenings are recommended beginning at age 50; earlier if you have a relative with the disease.
“Family history puts you at a much higher risk category so you want to be screened at age 40,” says Dr. Sharma.Some people report a change in bowel habits, sudden weight loss or anemia. These can be symptoms of colon cancer. So it’s worth having a conversation with your doctor to rule out this silent killer.