By: Dr. Kunal Gupta, GMN Health
I perform hundreds of colonoscopies each year. Depending on your family and personal medical history, it’s one of those tests you need to undergo because colon and rectal cancers are highly prevalent and particularly sneaky.Colon cancer often starts as painless and symptomless polyps in the lower GI tract, but over time, can grow quite large and become cancerous.
In 2013, a 44-year-old man from Parlin with an uncle who had colon cancer wisely took it upon himself to schedule a colonoscopy. He had no pain or other symptoms but was concerned about his increased risk. I discovered and biopsied a suspicious mass which was diagnosed as stage 3 colon cancer. He underwent chemotherapy and surgery to remove the tumor, and three years later continues to be cancer-free.
Recently, a 52-year-old old man from Roosevelt came in to see me with unusual changes in his bowel habits and ongoing rectal pressure. He did not suspect cancer as he had no family history, but knew ‘something wasn’t right.’ Again, I performed a colonoscopy, eventually diagnosing stage 2 cancer. I also performed a specialized procedure called endoscopic ultrasound which allows me to clearly visualize the digestive tract. Based on these tests, I referred the patient to CentraState Medical Center for treatment and eventual surgery. The patient has just completed preoperative chemotherapy and radiation and is scheduled for curative surgery to remove the malignant (cancerous) tissue.
Colorectal cancer screening is essential, particularly for people over age 50 or starting around age 40 for those with a family history. While less invasive (and less effective) screening tests abound, colonoscopy is still the gold standard not just for diagnosing — but also removing — suspicious polyps and growths.
Early stage colon or rectal cancer may be asymptomatic but eventually these symptoms may appear:
A change in bowel habits — diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool, that lasts more than a few days
Feeling you need to have a bowel movement that is not relieved by doing so
Rectal bleeding, dark stools, or blood in the stool
Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain
Weakness and fatigue
Unintended weight loss
Today’s minimally invasive screenings and surgical advancements for colon and rectal cancer treatment can save lives. But patients cannot be helped if their cancer is not diagnosed. Talk with your family doctor or GI specialist about your personal risk. Then play it safe — if screening is recommended, get it done and ensure you are not one of nearly 50,000 Americans who will lose the battle against colorectal cancer this year alone.
The Colon and Rectal Cancer Program at CentraState offers a full range of preventative, diagnostic and treatment services, including advanced robotic surgical technology. The program team is led by doctors and clinicians who specialize in diagnosing and treating colon and rectal cancer. For more information, call 855-411-CANCER or visit centrastate.com/cancer-center.