Early Screenings, Outpatient Procedures at St. Luke's Detect Colon Cancer

According to the American Hospital Association's 2015 Calendar of Health Observances and Recognition Days, the month of March is nationally recognized as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Many health providers, including St. Luke's Hospital, use this calendar of observances to help promote and provide community education on a variety of health topics each month. Awareness and prevention through education and screenings are vital to help individuals take control of their health for a better quality of life.

Today, colon cancer has become one of the worst killers in our country, largely because of the discomfort in dealing with it. But colon cancer can't be ignored. Early detection is the best protection.

"When colorectal cancer is detected early, the chances of successful treatment are the greatest, about 90 percent," says Jim Holleman, MD, general surgeon at St. Luke's Hospital. "Those are very good odds, so why take chances to avoid colorectal cancer screenings? Early screening can find many polyps before cancer develops. By removing these growths, cancer can actually be prevented."

Every year, about 135,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer and about 57,000 die from the disease. Most of these cases occur after the age of 50, which is why men and women at average risk should begin regular screening at age 50," Dr. Holleman continues. "However, anyone with a personal or family history of colorectal cancer, polyps in the colon or rectum, or inflammatory bowel disease is at higher risk for the disease and may need to begin screening sooner and more often.

"If you are age 50 or older, or if you are at a higher risk because of your personal or family history, talk to your doctor today about colorectal screening. If you experience symptoms such as change in bowel habits, rectal bleeding or stomach cramps that will not go away, you need to see your doctor immediately," Dr. Holleman said.

Colorectal cancer can be prevented or detected early and with little discomfort by using one or more of the following procedures available at St. Luke's Hospital with your doctor's order: fecal occult blood test, a simple at-home procedure that checks stool samples for hidden blood, which can be a sign of cancer, polyps or other internal disorders; colonoscopy, a procedure using a flexible, hollow, lighted tube that detects cancer or polyps inside the rectum and lower colon; and double-contrast barium enema, an x-ray examination that allows a radiologist to view the entire colon.

A colonoscopy, the most common procedure used to screen for colon cancer, allows a doctor to view the interior lining of the colon in search of anything out of the ordinary. During the procedure, the physician threads a thin, flexible viewing instrument through the length of the colon. As this scope is withdrawn, the physician looks for polyps and can also remove them.

If a polyp or abnormality is discovered, a small tissue sample is removed through the colonscope for further examination. If cancer is found, surgery, sometimes combined with radiation and/or chemotherapy, is the most effective method of treatment.

Most colorectal cancers begin as a polyp that later becomes cancerous. If polyps are found early, they can be removed before cancer develops. In this sense, colorectal cancer is a disease that can be prevented! Eating a diet that is low in fat and rich in fruits and vegetables may also lower the risk of colorectal cancer.

And rest assured that St. Luke's Hospital can make your colonoscopy a little less stressful. When you arrive for your procedure, there will be an anesthesia provider with you. You are given anesthesia that allows you to 'sleep' throughout the procedure but still be able to respond and talk to the doctor as needed. You will not feel a thing! Once the procedure is complete, you will awaken in five minutes and be pain-free.

At St. Luke's Hospital, we have an excellent surgeon and the finest teams in surgery, radiology and the lab to provide screenings for early detection of a leading killer, colorectal cancer. See your healthcare provider, talk about your family history and understand your risks. Then make the smart decision to take care of yourself. Don't put it off another month.

St. Luke's Hospital is a private, not-for-profit, acute care hospital committed to providing exceptional care, close to home.