Colon cancer screenings are crucial in preventing the disease, experts say

Colon cancer screenings are crucial in preventing the disease, experts say

LAUREL, Miss. (WDAM) - March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and experts at South Central Regional Medical Center are reminding people of the importance of screenings.

According to the CDC, colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. In Mississippi, the state department of health reports colorectal cancer is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in the state.

Officials say some patients may not even know they have it.

“Many times, colorectal cancer is so subtle, you just don’t know,” said Dr. Stephen Johnson, a gastroenterologist at SCRMC in Laurel.

This means screenings for the disease are crucial.

“Getting screened and getting polyps removed is probably by far the most important thing that can be done to prevent colorectal cancer,” Johnson said.

Speaking of polyps, officials say removing them is an important step.

“Most, 90% plus of colon cancers start as polyps,” Johnson said. “And if we remove polyps in the early stages, then they don’t turn into colon cancers.”

Officials say early detection is extremely important when it comes to colon cancer.

“We also know that if we do find a colon cancer on screening, typically find it at an earlier stage so it can be more easily cured,” Johnson said.

However, because of the pandemic, we’re told many people are delaying their regular checkups, including colon cancer screenings. This may mean bad news for some.

“The biggest concern that all of us have is that people, because of the pandemic, are going to delay their colon cancer screenings and, unfortunately, that may lead to folks with more advanced cancers down the line,” Johnson said.

While officials say screening is the best way to prevent the disease, there are some symptoms health officials tell us people can look out for.

“Any change in bowel habits, any blood of any kind in the stool is always a concern,” Johnson said. “We need to identify what’s causing the blood in the stool, because one of the things that low lying colorectal cancers will do will be bleed. Weight loss or alteration in patient’s weight without them trying to lose weight can be an indication.”

Johnson says starting at age 50, people should receive a colonoscopy every 10 years unless the patient has polyps or a family history of the disease. He says those people should get screened at the age that is 10 years prior to the youngest family member that had colon cancer.

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