Screening is the number one way you can prevent colon cancer and rectal cancer. 

Recent research has shown a trend of higher incidence and mortality of colorectal cancer in younger adults. As a result, screening is now recommended to begin at age 45 instead of 50, and earlier if your family has a history of this disease, says the US Preventive Services Task Force.

Colorectal cancer – #2 cause of cancer deaths in US

“The majority of colorectal cancers develop from polyps,” says Dr. Michael Nerney, Erlanger Western Carolina’s (EWCH’s) board-certified general surgeon. “Identifying polyps at an early stage is key, when a simple outpatient colonoscopy could reveal them and allow for their removal – ideally before the development of colorectal cancer, and, ultimately, death.”

The most common symptom of polyps is no symptom. However, colorectal cancer symptoms are often marked by a change in bowel habits, blood in or on your stool, diarrhea or constipation, abdominal cramps that won’t go away, and losing weight for an unknown reason. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, contact your doctor today.

Screening saves lives

During a standard colonoscopy, patients are typically sedated and the rectum and colon are then examined using a flexible, lighted tube called a colonoscope. Polyps can be removed during the procedure, if found.

The bottom line

“Screening makes a difference, and it should not be delayed,” Dr. Nerney says. “It is also important to know your family’s medical history and discuss any cases of colon cancer or polyps with all physicians you see. Screening may be recommended before age 45 and more often for patients with a strong family history of colorectal or other types of cancer.”

Leading a healthy lifestyle to help keep your colon healthy also helps, says Dr. Nerney. Eating a diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans can help keep you on the right track. Limiting fast and processed foods, getting regular physical activity, avoiding smoking and alcohol, should also be part of your routine.

If you haven’t talked to your doctor yet about a colonoscopy, do it today!

Dr. Nerney’s office is conveniently located on the EWCH campus, in the medical office building at 145 Medical Park Lane, Suite I. Patients can call 828-837-7708 to schedule an appointment for a colonoscopy screening or consult for a variety of routine to complex surgical procedures.