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Spotlighting Health

Heritage Health focuses on important health topics every month. 

Colonscopy screenings save lives

Dr. Daniel Henbest

Colon Cancer remains one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths. Approximately 50,000 people die from the disease every year.

 

It’s believed that thousands of those deaths could have been prevented.  

 

Colon cancer is often asymptomatic in its early stages, said Dr. Anthony Rehil-Crest, Chief Clinical Officer with Heritage Health.

 

“Colon cancer screening can reduce morbidity and mortality from colon cancer,” said Rehil-Crest. “After being diagnosed with colorectal cancer, approximately one in three will die from their disease and these deaths are largely preventable with proper screening, increased physical activity and healthy nutrition.” 

 

According to the American Cancer Society, over 100,000 new cases of colon cancer are diagnosed annually in the United States. 

 

Colorectal cancer begins in the colon or the rectum. These cancers can also be named colon cancer or rectal cancer, depending on where they start.  

 

It’s essential for men and women to get colon screenings.

 

“Screening for colon cancer can detect precancerous lesions before they turn into cancer,” said Rehil-Crest. “If cancer is detected early, treatments are more likely to result in a favorable outcome.”

 

Symptoms for colon cancer vary but people may experience pain in the abdomen, blood in the stool, change in bowel habits, along with anemia or fatigue. However, many people with colon cancer may not have symptoms at all and this is where regular screening can save lives.

 

Patients without a personal or family history of colon cancer or colon polyps are at average risk for colon cancer, and screening should begin at age 45 and no later than 50. Patients with first-degree relatives who had colon cancer or polyps are at increased risk and should be screened more frequently, usually starting 10 years before the family member's age at diagnosis.  

 

 “Colonoscopies are the best screening test, but it does come with some risk and some discomfort from the preparation,” said Rehil-Crest. “If a colonoscopy is negative, the test only needs to be repeated once every 10 years.  If pre-cancerous polyps are found, colonoscopy screenings may be repeated every three to five years as needed.” 

 

 

Home screenings have been growing in popularity.

 

The FIT test can be performed in the comfort of the home and returned to the physician’s office for processing. Cologuard is another non-invasive test that can be performed at home. While the FIT test must be performed annually, Cologuard can be completed every three years if the test is negative. If either test is positive, a colonoscopy would need to be performed to confirm or exclude a diagnosis of colon cancer. 

 

“While colonoscopy remains the best colon cancer screening, tests such as Cologuard and fecal occult blood testing are good initial options for individuals with average risk,” said Rehil-Crest. “

 

Ask your healthcare provider about your risk for colon cancer and what screening test is best for you. To schedule an appointment, call (208) 620-5250.  

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