The Importance of Your Colonoscopy
In the early to mid 1900s, Babe Didrickson Zaharias was a notable female golfer and the first woman to ever compete in a men’s golf event. She went on to win countless golf championships, including the U.S. Women’s Open — twice, and she helped found the Ladies Professional Golf Association.
Diagnosed with colon cancer in 1953, she had surgery, went on to win the Vare Trophy for the lowest scoring average and competed in her 10th U.S. Women’s Open championship while wearing a colostomy bag.
Zaharias’ cancer returned two years later. At 45 years old, she was still a top-ranked female golfer when she died.
Zaharias, who was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, was known for her athletic abilities, but she was also a cancer awareness advocate and raised money for the cause.
It’s been more than a half a century since Zaharias’ death and more is now known about colon cancer. In fact, March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, making it a good time for you to review the facts and ensure that you are doing what you can to take care of your body.
Detecting colorectal cancer
Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States, but it is also one of the most curable, and survival rates have increased steadily in recent years. This is due to awareness and early detection. When caught early, treatment is more effective, which can result in a better outcome.
Catching rectal cancer early is also very important.
How can you catch colorectal cancer in its early stages? You keep up with your cancer screenings, such as the colonoscopy. The colonoscopy is the gold standard for cancer prevention and detection, along with polyp removal.
A colonoscopy can be done with minimal anesthesia and well-tolerated preparations, and screening colonoscopies are recommended for anyone age 45 or older. Your physician may suggest you have a colonoscopy at an earlier age if you have a higher risk for colorectal cancer.
You are at higher risk for colorectal cancer if you:
- Have a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps
- Have inflammatory bowel disease
- Are of African-American descent
The warning signs
Dr. Michael Parker is a colorectal surgeon at Middlesex Health, and he helps patients treat colon and rectal problems. Sometimes, the solution to those problems is surgery. However, he, along with gastroenterologists and other colorectal surgeons, can also perform more routine procedures like colonoscopies.
In addition to keeping up with your routine screenings, Dr. Parker says it is important to be aware of colorectal cancer warning signs. You should make sure you see a doctor if you notice:
- Bright red blood or dark tarry blood in your stool (It may not be hemorrhoids.)
- Altered bowel patterns
- Persistently narrowed stools
- Unintentional weight loss
Other important information
In addition to surgery, chemotherapy and radiation may be used, in some combination, to treat colorectal cancer.
You can help reduce your risk of developing colorectal cancer by avoiding tobacco and minimizing alcohol use.
Middlesex Health’s Center for Digestive Health, which helps patients with many different diseases, ensures that your care is coordinated between all your providers, even if they are not located in the same office. It brings together physicians, nurses and other supportive providers together to ensure that you get the care you need. The collaboration allows for any problems to be addressed more efficiently and effectively.
For more information about the Center for Digestive Health, click here.
The Middlesex Health Burris Center for Integrative Medicine, located at 540 Saybrook Road in Middletown, is now open.
Many men have an enlarged prostate. It is a common medical problem that can greatly impact their quality of life, possibly preventing them fully emptying their bladder and causing other issues.