(888) 39-MERCY
Wisconsin & Illinois

How a colon cancer screening can save your life

Colon cancer is silent and often has no symptoms. The most effective way to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer and other gastrointestinal cancers is to get screened, and a colonoscopy is still considered the gold standard.

Our gastroenterologists use state-of-the-art technology and are experts in both performing the procedure and interpreting the results.

“Colon cancer is the third most common cause of cancer in the United States and it is the second most common cause of cancer related deaths in the United States. Annually at least 150,000 Americans get infected with colon cancer and out of those, 50,000 of them die from it and it is something that can be preventable,” said Dr. Naser Khan, Medical Director of Gastroenterology at Mercyhealth. “Early screening is lifesaving.”

“Early screening is lifesaving and it is preventive for colon cancer,” said Dr. Naser Khan, Medical Director of Gastroenterology at Mercyhealth.

Risk factors for screening

If you’re 45 years or older, you should be screened. If your family has a history of colorectal cancer, you should consider screening earlier.

Lifestyle factors that may contribute to an increased risk of colorectal cancer include:

  • Lack of regular physical activity
  • Low fruit and vegetable intake
  • A low-fiber and high-fat diet
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Tobacco use

Screening can find precancerous polyps—abnormal growths in the colon or rectum—so that they can be removed before turning into cancer. Screening also helps find colorectal cancer at an early stage, when treatment often leads to a cure.

I was diagnosed at age 52 with Stage IV colorectal cancer,” said Robin Bumphrey, who was treated for colorectal cancer at Mercyhealth. “I ignored the recommended guidelines for colon cancer screening, like most people. I waited until I had to go, due to symptoms I could no longer ignore; symptoms I wasn’t having at 50. If I had gotten a screening colonoscopy at 50, which was the recommended screening age at the time, I probably still would have been diagnosed with cancer, however, it probably would have been Stage II or less, and treatment probably would have been much less invasive. Because I waited until I was having symptoms, I had to endure chemotherapy, radiation, surgery and more chemotherapy. It was a very long, intense 18 months of treatment and I am very fortunate to have come out on the other side. Many do not.”

Robin Bumphrey was diagnosed with Stage IV colorectal cancer at age 52. At the time, she had never had a colonoscopy. She believes if she had followed the screening guidelines, her cancer would’ve been caught a lot sooner and her treatment would’ve been less invasive.

Colon cancer screening options

There are several screening options for colon cancer. The gold standard is a colonoscopy because it helps prevent colon cancer from happening by removing the polyps and it detects colon cancer early on.

When a colonoscopy is not an option, there are other ways of screening including looking for blood in stool or doing a Cologuard® test, which is an at-home screening test for adults 45 and older who are at average risk.

For regular colonoscopies, it is recommend you repeat the screening every 10 years. If there is a family history of colon cancer or prior colon polyps, the recommendation for another colonoscopy is once every three to five years, depending on the patient.

“A colonoscopy is not scary at all. There have been a lot of advancements, the prep has gotten a lot easier, and the procedure itself is very safe. It’s done with sedation or with the help of anesthesia, and the risks of any complications is extremely low,” said Dr. Ramez Khoury, a gastroenterologist at Mercyhealth.

Talk with your doctor to discuss your personal risk.

Dr. Ramez Khoury, a gastroenterologist at Mercyhealth, said colon cancer is common and can be deadly. It is, however, preventable, and that’s why screening for it is so important.

Make an appointment with a gastroenterologist

To learn more about Mercyhealth’s gastroenterology team or to make an appointment, call 888.396.3729, or visit mercyhealthsystem.org/service/gastroenterology.