Avera Medical Minute: The importance of colon cancer screenings

Published: Mar. 14, 2022 at 10:53 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Colon cancer is the most common gastrointestinal cancer. It’s also one of the most treatable if it’s found early.

Oncologists say they’re increasingly diagnosing younger and younger patients.

Health officials have now lowered the recommended age for people to be screened for colon cancer.

“There’s been an undoubted increase in colon cancer, colorectal cancer in young people. Nobody really knows why, there are a lot of theories out there but these are generally people who don’t have a family history. And because of that, for the general public, the age of initial screening has gone own from the age of 50 to the age of 45,” said Dr. Mark Huber, a Medical Oncologist with Avera Medical Group.

Colonoscopies are considered the gold standard in colon cancer screenings, but doctors say there is hesitancy from some patients when it comes to getting the procedure done.

“No one loves to do colonoscopies,” said Aarika Maisik. “Let’s be honest, it’s not the most enjoyable, fun experience. But I also think it’s not as bad as people make it out to be.”

Maisik was only 34 when she was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. By the time it was found, cancer had already spread to her liver and the lining of her stomach.

She has undergone several rounds of chemotherapy and surgery to fight her cancer, which has now spread to her lungs. She’s taking oral chemo treatment and says she’s able to maintain a good quality of life.

Aarika is now advocating for people, especially during colorectal cancer awareness month, to get a screening when they can.

“It’s one day of difficulty for a lot of peace of mind. So do the hard thing, don’t avoid the colonoscopy get it done and ensure your health,” said Maisik.

Doctors are echoing that message.

“If caught early, colon cancer is highly preventable by removing polypus and highly treatable and curable even if caught at an early stage when it’s already to the point of being cancer when it spreads to the point of being stage 4, the chance of cure certainly becomes a lot less and its really all about catching it early as early as you can,” said Dr. Huber.

For more information on colorectal cancer, visit Avera.org/MedicalMinute.

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