Gundersen physician stresses the importance of a colonoscopy
The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 101,000 people will be diagnosed with colon cancer in 2019 and that approximately 51,000 will die from the disease in the United States.
The good news is, with regular screenings, colon cancer can be found early when treatment is most effective. "Despite the lethal nature of colon cancer, fewer than half of all Americans undergo regular screenings," explains Timothy Minus, DO, Gundersen Health System surgeon who sees patients at Gundersen Moundview Hospital and Clinics. "Colon cancer can be greatly reduced through screenings that help us find cancer in an early, more curable stage, as well as cancerous growths, called polyps. Removing polyps can prevent cancer from ever occurring."
Many people are uncomfortable discussing colon cancer. That's why March has been declared Colon Cancer Awareness Month and is a good time to learn more about colon cancer and how it can be prevented or best treated. "Most people hate the idea of having a colonoscopy. Whether they are worried about the discomfort, embarrassment or fear of what might be found," says Dr. Minus. "But if you ask most people who have had a colonoscopy, they will tell you 'it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.'"
The risk of developing colon cancer increases with age. All men and women 50 years of age or older are at greatest risk of colon cancer and should be screened. If you have a sibling, parent or child with colon cancer, you should talk with your primary care provider about starting screening earlier. "If you have a relative diagnosed with colon cancer before they are 50 years old, then we encourage family members to have their first colonoscopy 10 years sooner than when the relative was diagnosed," says Dr. Minus. "For example, if the relative is diagnosed at age 45, then relatives should have their first colonoscopy when they are 35 years old."
In addition to regular colonoscopies, Dr. Minus also suggests the following to lower your risk for colon cancer:
- Eat a low-fat, high-fiber diet.
- If you consume alcohol, drink in moderation. If you use tobacco, quit. If you don't use tobacco, don't start. Alcohol and tobacco in combination are linked to colon cancer and other gastrointestinal cancers.
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes each day. Moderate exercise such as walking, gardening or climbing steps may help.
For more information, talk with your primary care provider or contact Gundersen Moundview's Clinic in Friendship or Westfield at (608) 296-6350. Appointments with Dr. Minus may be scheduled at Gundersen Moundview, by calling (608) 339-3331.