By Brad Burris, PCMC CEO
TO THE EDITOR:
During the month of March, we keep hoping for an end to winter – or for it to at least wind down. We also want to help bring an end to colon cancer during March, which is National Colorectal Awareness Month.
Before 2023 ends, an estimated 150,000 Americans will be diagnosed with this preventable disease, and 52,000 will die. That figure is disheartening because it has never been easier to prevent colorectal cancer and detect it in its earliest and most treatable stages. Each of us can take steps that lessen risk and improve outcomes.
Here are the facts:
•Among screening options, colonoscopy is the gold standard in early detection. This life-changing exam provides the most comprehensive view of the colon and helps the physician find internal polyps that might become cancer, but better still, the doctor can remove polyps during the same procedure. This essentially stops cancer before it starts. And, colonoscopy is how physicians can find colorectal cancer in its earliest stages, when it is most treatable.
•If you are 45, schedule your colonoscopy. You can call (507) 825-5811. If your 45th birthday has past, and you still have not had this test – do not hesitate. Make your appointment today.
•Talk to your parents or grandparents. If there is a history of cancer in your family, share that with your primary care provider or family doctor. Some people younger than 45 should get the exam, based on their family history.
•Fight cancer risk with more activity and better eating – more whole foods, only moderate alcohol use and limited processed products. These are steps toward overall better health for all of us. Together they add up and cut the chances of getting colon cancer.
•Learn more about how and what you eat. Your provider can help you fit recommended fiber and nutrients into your daily meals and snacks.
Be aware of symptoms and report any concerns to your doctor:
•Change in bowel habits such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool. Any of these changes that last for more than a few days is a symptom.
•Blood in the stool, which may make it look dark.
•Feeling like you need to have a bowel movement that is not relieved by doing so.
•Bloating, pain, tenderness or cramping in the lower abdomen.
•Unintended weight loss.
•Weakness and fatigue.
A decisive step we can put on our March to-do list is to talk with friends and family. A simple conversation with someone we love can spark change. Who knows, maybe your encouragement will help them take the step of calling to set up an appointment to get a colonoscopy. It might even save their life!
I was overdue for my colonoscopy, having last had one over 16 years ago. Like many people, I kept putting it off. On February 27th I had it done at PCMC and was glad I did. Several polyps were removed that could have turned into cancer. I can also report that the prep process is much improved from my last colonoscopy. I mixed my laxative with Gatorade and could not even taste it. You are sedated for the procedure. It is just like taking a nice nap.
We cannot fast-forward through winter to spring, yet we can press the pause button in our lives today and make healthy changes that can help stop colorectal cancer.