The Importance of Screening During Colon Cancer Month

Published: Mar. 20, 2023 at 7:30 AM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - March is Colorectal or Colon Cancer Awareness Month. Doctors call attention to the importance of getting screened and promote a healthy lifestyle to decrease the likelihood of being at risk.

Aside from colon cancer being one of the most common cancers, there are a variety of facts that you should know. One being how important it is to maintain a healthy diet. Although we all enjoy our red meats, Dr. Harry Menon, a Hematology and Oncology physician at Renown, says it is one of the leading causes.

“So there are a couple of causes. There are genetic causes which can be linked to different genes that can be passed down between different family members. There are also environmental factors, so diet is a major one in that regard,” said Dr. Menon. “Unfortunately the western diet has a lot of red meat and stuff like that involved in it, which can be a big insider of colon cancer and rectal cancer so those are the main things we look at.”

Parallel to breast cancer, colon cancer causes one-sixth of all cancer deaths, according to Norman Sharpless, a Director of the National Cancer Institute. Since the pandemic, people have not been able to get their annual check ups causing an uptick in canceled or postponed appointments. Dr. Menon says the symptoms go beyond abdominal pain.

“One of the main symptoms that we see is people having changes in their bowel movements. They are not able to sort of move like they normally do. Sometimes they might have problems and might go a couple of days without having bowel movements and that becomes a recurring pattern for them,” said Dr. Menon. “They get a lot of abdominal pain. One of the main symptoms that can occur is bleeding, so you could have blood coming from your rectal area and you might notice that in the toilet bowl or something like that or you can have black tarry stools that develop.”

The American Cancer Society recommends the average person should undergo a screening at age 45, which is a 5 year jump from the previous age at 50. Even if your Medicare or insurance does not offer a colonoscopy until 50, catching the disease early has saved up to 90% of carriers.