March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and gastroenterologists with Southwell Gastroenterology encourage the community to become more educated about colorectal cancer. While colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer in the United States, it is a preventable disease.
Colon cancer can be detected early and prevented through regular colonoscopies. Studies show that 96 percent of the patients who develop colon cancer have an initial development of a small colon polyp, which is a benign tumor. “Some polyps will eventually develop into a colon cancer, but the cancer can be prevented if the polyp is removed during a screening procedure,” says Dr. Eric Ward, gastroenterologist with Southwell Gastroenterology Valdosta.
By removing polyps when they are small and benign, colon cancer can be prevented in a large number of patients. Both men and women are encouraged to have regular colonoscopies at the same rate, as there is no significant difference between men and women in regards to colon cancer development.
“For years, it was recommended that people begin having colon cancer screenings at age 50, but there is newer evidence to suggest that screenings should be performed sooner. It is now recommended that all average risk patients now start a colon screening program at age 45,” says Dr. C. Allen Woods, gastroenterologist with Southwell Gastroenterology Valdosta. This is due to more aggressive polyp/tumor formations and earlier age onset of the disease.
Although only a few insurance companies cover patients to begin having screenings at age 45, Southwell Gastroenterologists note a startling statistic that about 10 percent of new colon cancers and 25 percent of new rectal cancers now occur in patients who are not yet 50.
According to gastroenterologists, the key way to prevent colon cancer is by removing smaller benign polyps. However, sometimes more advanced polyps or polyps with cancer may be present that can also be removed with a colonoscopy. “With advanced technology, we can now remove some of the larger polyps that previously would have required surgery with a procedure called endoscopic mucosal resection (EMR) at selected gastroenterology centers,” says Dr. George Yared, gastroenterologist with Southwell Medical Gastroenterology in Tifton.
Gastroenterologists are aware that many people may dread getting a colonoscopy, however, the procedure is not as intimidating as it sounds. “The vast majority of patients have no memory of the procedure at all. Most insurance companies cover the cost of colonoscopy screenings,” says Dr. Edward Fricker, gastroenterologist with Southwell Gastroenterology Lowndes.
Be proactive this March by contacting one of the following physicians to schedule a colonoscopy screening. Local residents have many locations to choose from to receive their colonoscopy. Dr. Edward Fricker sees patients at his office location in Valdosta, while performing procedures at Southwell Medical in Adel. Beginning in April, he will also perform procedures at his Valdosta location. Both Drs. Eric Ward and C. Allen Woods see patients at their office in Valdosta, and perform procedures at Southwell Medical in Adel. Dr. George Yared sees patients at his Tifton office, and performs procedures at Tift Regional Medical Center.
For more information, visit mysouthwell.com/gastroenterology.