March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month
According to the Colon Cancer Alliance, 90% of new cases occur in people over 50. The average age of a Knox County resident is 46 years of age (US Census). If you are reading this, you might be nearly due for a screening colonoscopy – or long overdue!
You might be embarrassed to talk about anything colorectal related, but this part of our bodies is the second leading cancer-related killer (Colon Cancer Alliance). Your colon and rectum are the final part of your digestive system. Cancers found here can sometimes cause symptoms that we don’t realize are serious. This means that we might not find the cancer early enough to have the best chance at beating it.
Symptoms you should talk to your doctor about:
- Your bowel habits have changed: you aren’t going as much as you used to, or you’re going a lot more than you used to.
- When you go, it feels “incomplete” – like you have to go more, but can’t.
- You see blood in the toilet with a bowel movement.
- You’re losing weight and don’t know why.
- You feel weak or fatigued.
- You feel nauseated or have been vomiting.
- You have more frequent stomach problems like bloating, gas, pain or feel “full.”
The earlier colorectal cancer is found, the more likely you will beat it. Cancers that are found in the “local” stage, meaning they haven’t spread anywhere yet, have a 95% survival rate (Colon Cancer Alliance). A colonoscopy is your best tool for finding cancer early and ensures you have the best chance at getting treatment. Colonoscopies are not the most comfortable experience, but at Pen Bay, the highly trained nurses and staff have years of training and experience that will help you feel at ease before, during and after the procedure.
Pen Bay Medical Center’s state-of-the-art Endoscopy Unit has one gastroenterologist and two surgeons who perform over 1,600 colonoscopies per year. Barbara Young, certified Gastroenterology registered nurse, has worked in Endoscopy for 30+ years. For 23 years, she’s served on the Executive Board for the Maine Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates, currently as President Elect. “I cannot emphasize enough the importance of colonoscopy screening. Colon cancer is the only cancer that can be prevented. Most colon cancers start as a polyp so if we can remove it at the polyp stage, we can beat it! I would like to take this opportunity to encourage you and your family members who are 50 year old or greater to get screened.” Young brings a wealth of knowledge, experience and passion to her job to make your screening colonoscopy the best experience it could be.
To find out how you can get this important test, talk to your primary care doctor, call Pen Bay Surgery at 593-5722 or Dr. Neil Smith’s office at 593-6599.
Abby Norman is Pen Bay Healthcare’s Health Information data coordinator. She is also a freelance science writer and has contributed to many publications, including The National Medical Records Briefing and The Almost Doctor’s Channel (online).