Avera Medical Minute: Colon Cancer Awareness Month, scheduling your next screening

Published: Mar. 9, 2023 at 5:42 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - The month of March kicks off Colon Cancer Awareness Month and is a good reminder for those turning 45. It’s probably time to schedule a colonoscopy. Dr. Nicole Falls, a surgeon at Avera Marshall discussed the importance of colon screenings and colon health.

How common is this exactly?

Dr. Falls: “Well, it’s the third most common cancer globally and it’s the third most common cause of cancer death at this time following lung and then breast for females and prostate for males.”

And are there some common warning signs when looking for colorectal cancer we can keep an eye out for

Dr. Falls: “So if you’re noticing any changes in your bowel habits wherein they used to be firm and now it’s soft, or any changes in like the caliber of your stool, or particularly any changes in the color and you’re specifically looking for things like bright red stools or black stools.”

When screening for this, are there some recommended guidelines in terms of when something maybe becomes more serious and might require a little bit more medical attention?

Dr. Falls: “There are now general screening recommendations. They have lowered the age at which we should start getting our screening colonoscopy to age 45. And then depending on what they find on your colonoscopy will kind of determine when the next time you should get a colonoscopy is and this is our gold standard for screening for colon cancer. And it can reduce up to 90% of colorectal cancers if done regularly. There are like less invasive options for screening for colorectal cancer such as fecal stool tests or testing for like stool DNA to determine if you have like a gene carrying colorectal cancer. But the gold standard is a colonoscopy.”

And perhaps not a ton of people just completely eager to do this, which is fair, but what do you tell people that perhaps are a little hesitant to this whole process and the prep for this?

Dr. Falls: “Yeah, so again, the prep is not awesome. It’s going to be the best nap of your life though. You know, this is the best way that we have that we’re able to detect colon cancer and when caught early, you know that colonoscopy is, besides being just a screening tool is also diagnostic. So it allows us to treat any small polyps at that point in time to overall reduce your risk of getting colon cancer, of having really having to avoid you having to get a larger surgery.”

And any other final thoughts on this, regarding whether how prevalent it is or how easy it is to simply make these preventative steps, making the big difference in the future.

Dr. Falls: “Yeah, the prevalence you know it’s really important to talk to a doctor about this because we are seeing an increase in prevalence, especially in the younger age group, which is why the age of which screening starts hasn’t been lowered from 50 to 45. it’s going to vary particularly if you have a positive family history of colorectal cancer. But really, if you notice any changes in your stool regardless of when the last time once you had a colonoscopy, it’s always good to talk to your healthcare provider. If you should be getting one sooner than you know what was initially recommended.”