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Flush colonoscopy fears down the drain

March 30, 2014

Most people don’t like to talk about colonoscopy screenings, but there are good reasons to talk more about it – especially during March, National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

- Colon cancer kills 50,000 Americans each year (that’s just shy of Sheboygan’s population)
- 80% of these deaths can be prevented with colonoscopies and lifestyle change
- With a colonoscopy, doctors can find polyps and remove them before they become cancerous

Unfortunately, a recent Centers for Disease Control report showed that nearly one in three adults (ages 50-75) are not being tested for colon cancer.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. for both men and women (Source: cancer.gov). The good news is that colon cancer screening dramatically reduces the risk of getting and dying from colon cancer. More than 80 percent of colon cancers are preventable through recommended colonoscopies and lifestyle changes (Source: American Journal of Gastroenterology, 2006).

The increase in the number of people following guidelines for colonoscopy screening has saved thousands of lives.

During a colonoscopy, if the doctor finds any small growths (polyps), they are removed. Polyps can eventually become cancerous. While not every colon polyp turns to cancer, almost every colon cancer begins as a small non-cancerous polyp. During a colonoscopy these polyps can be identified and removed or destroyed. If a polyp is large enough, tissue can be retrieved and sent for biopsy to determine the exact type of the polyp.

All individuals should have a colonoscopy at age 50. Some may need to be screened earlier if there are worrisome symptoms, such as: rectal bleeding, change in bowel habits, abdominal pain or discomfort, or unexplained weight loss.

Doctors may also recommend a screening before age 50 (even in patients half this age); if there is a personal history of colon cancer, personal history of known hereditary inflammatory disease, bowel disease, or a family history of polyps.

A quick on-line tool is available to test knowledge about colorectal cancer and screening. Visit www.froedtert.com/colonoscopy

Specialists at several Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin suggest talking with a primary care colon cancer screening when approaching age 50, or when having symptoms or concerns. Colonoscopies are provided at several locations, including Community Memorial Hospital, Menomonee Falls; Froedtert Hospital, Milwaukee; Sargeant Health Center, Milwaukee; St. Joseph's Hospital, West Bend; Moorland Reserve Health Center, New Berlin; and West Bend Surgery Center, West Bend.

To schedule a colonoscopy at any of these screening locations, call 414-805-3666 or 800-272-3666.

Taking care of yourself is good not only for you, but for others as well. Be sure to follow this and other important screening recommendations.

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