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Simple Screening, Saved Lives

March 7, 2023

Recognizing Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

There are so many simple safety precautions we take in life. Things like wearing a seatbelt, putting on sunscreen or even checking both ways before you cross the street are seemingly small steps to take, but they all have the potential to save lives. When we think of medical safety precautions that can save lives, one big one comes to mind: colorectal cancer screenings.

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness month, which is a perfect time to raise awareness about the importance of colorectal cancer screening and prevention. As the third most common cancer in men and women in the United States, it’s estimated that more than 140,000 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer this year alone.

In the Quad Cities, many patients turn to Quad City Gastroenterology in both Moline and Davenport for their digestive needs. And when outpatient procedures are needed, Quad City Gastroenterology physicians turn to Mississippi Valley Endoscopy Center, also located in Davenport. Utilizing the latest technology including endoscopic ultrasound, colorectal cancer screenings and endoscopies in an outpatient setting allows patients to return home comfortability within one hour or so after their procedure.

Get proactive, get screened

With the right screening, colorectal cancer is preventable, treatable and beatable. The most effective screening tool is a colonoscopy. Early detection is key to improving the chances of survival, and with 98% accuracy to detect cancer, a colonoscopy is decisively a smart health decision to be part of your routine health care if you’re over the age of 45.

Completed as an outpatient procedure, a colonoscopy is used to detect changes or abnormalities in the large intestine (colon) and rectum like precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) so they can be removed before they turn into cancer. If precancerous polyps are found, they can easily and painlessly be removed during the exam without the need to schedule a follow-up appointment. As the most thorough form of colorectal cancer screenings, a colonoscopy is considered the best and most sensitive screening test available.

Not only is the procedure painless, quick and extremely accurate, but generally it’s only repeated every 5-10 years if no abnormalities are found and you don’t have an increased risk of colorectal cancer. If cancer is detected, colon cancer in particular has a very high survival rate of about 91%. It’s a simple, proactive box to check that could potentially save your life.

You may be wondering if a colonoscopy is the only way to screen for colorectal cancer. There are also various stool DNA tests available, however, they are less sensitive than a colonoscopy at detecting precancerous polyps, and if abnormalities are found, additional tests might be needed.

Live a healthy lifestyle

While getting screened regularly is the best way to detect colorectal cancer early, there are other steps you can take to improve your colorectal health. Things like maintaining a healthy diet that is rich in fiber and fruits, vegetables and whole grains can help reduce your risk of colorectal cancer, as well as lowering your intake of red meats and processed foods.

Exercising also has been shown to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, so try to get out and move at least 30 minutes every day and take steps to maintain a healthy weight. Lastly, quitting smoking and drinking alcohol in moderation can help reduce your risk of colorectal cancer. All of these steps together will not only reduce your colorectal cancer risk, but also help create a healthy lifestyle in general.

During this year’s Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, it’s important to realize the impact the disease can take on the lives of individuals and families across the country, but it’s even more important to start taking steps to protect your colorectal health. If you have any concerns about your colorectal health, or think it may be time to get screened, talk to your doctor about getting started. After all, it could be a simple precaution that could save your life.

Colorectal cancer fast facts

  • Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States, after lung and prostate cancer in men and breast and lung cancer in women.
  • The rate of people being diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer each year has dropped overall since the mid-1980s, mainly because more people are getting screened.
  • The five-year survival rate for colorectal cancer is 90% if the cancer is detected early, but only 14% of it is not detected until it has spread to other parts of the body.

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