Sayre, Pa. – According to the Centers for Disease Control, colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death, affecting nearly 150,000 people every year.
March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month and Guthrie gastroenterologist Thomas McDonald, MD is taking the opportunity to remind those ages 50 and over to get a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy is still the only test proven to impact colon cancer survivor rates. Screening can find precancerous polyps (abnormal growths), so they can be removed before they turn into cancer. Screening also finds colorectal cancer early, when treatment works best.
The American Cancer Society estimates that less than 50% of age-appropriate individuals in New York and Pennsylvania get a colonoscopy when they should.
“I think a large part of the problem with getting a colonoscopy is the mental concept of what kind of screening test it is.” McDonald said. “The preparation for it is uncomfortable, though here at Guthrie we have adopted a pill form of the prep, so it is much easier than some other methods.”
One of most troubling issues with colon cancer is that by the time there are symptoms, the illness has progressed into a later stage. Just having a precancerous polyp will not result in discomfort, making the colonoscopy screening the only way to find it.
“I tell people to think of it like they do the oil change on their car.” McDonald says. “You don’t wait for the engine to blow up and then do routine maintenance.”
The American Cancer Society recommendation is for screenings to start at age 50 and every ten years after that. If there is a family history of colon cancer, testing should begin at age 40 and continue every five years. Eligible patients are encouraged to talk to their primary care doctor about scheduling a colonoscopy.
Guthrie Health is a community-based, not-for-profit health care system jointly formed by Guthrie Healthcare System (GHS) and Guthrie Clinic, also not-for-profit health care organizations. GHS provides inpatient, outpatient and home-based services through Corning Hospital, Troy Community Hospital, Robert Packer Hospital, and Guthrie Home Care and Guthrie Hospice. Guthrie Clinic provides primary and specialty physician services at 25 regional clinics. Guthrie Health provides care for 200,000 patients annually within its eleven-county area service area across the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York.