March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and doctors at Atrium Health Navicent invite the community to become more educated about the importance of preventative screening by colonoscopy.
Colorectal cancer, a combined term for colon cancer and rectal cancer, is the third most common cause of cancer death in the United States.
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), the lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is 1 in 23 for men and 1 in 26 for women in the U.S. The ACS estimates that in 2023 there will be 106,970 new cases of colon cancer and 46,050 new cases of rectal cancer, leading to 52,550 deaths.
The death rate from colorectal cancer is particularly high in central Georgia. The colorectal cancer death rate in central Georgia is 14.8 deaths per 100,000 people, which is higher than the national average of 13.7 deaths per 100,000 people.
The good news is that cancer can be detected early through screenings.
“Colorectal screening is essential in detecting precancerous, abnormal growths that can be removed before they turn into cancer, allowing us to diagnose cancer early, when it’s easiest to treat,” said Dr. Roxana Coman, an Atrium Health Navicent gastroenterologist.
For individuals of average risk, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening for colorectal cancer starting at age 45 and continuing until age 75. However, you may need to start getting tested before age 45, or more often than other people, if you have inflammatory bowel disease or a family history of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps.
During this endoscopic procedure, a scope is used to examine a patient’s colon from end to end, looking for any signs of growths or polyps. Polyps can be removed during this procedure to prevent the development of colon cancer.
Colonoscopies, A Step-By-Step Guide
When your doctor orders a colonoscopy, you’ll receive prep instructions and a special liquid drink that cleanses your digestive system. It is important to follow the instructions so that your colon will be clean and easy to examine.
When it’s time to arrive at Atrium Health Navicent Endoscopy Center, you’ll be in and out in about four hours. Be sure to have a ride home, as you’ll be given anesthesia during the colonoscopy.
A nurse will take you to a private room and bathroom, where you’ll change into a gown. Your nurse prepares you for the procedure by obtaining vital signs, reviewing your medical history and starting IV fluids. You’ll have the opportunity to ask questions about the procedure at this time.
Once taken to the procedural room, you’ll see the doctor, endoscopy technician and other nurses. You will roll over onto your left side and a nurse anesthetist will put oxygen through your nose and then give you medication through your IV to put you to sleep. You will stay asleep the whole time.
Once you’re fully unconscious, an endoscopy tech assists the doctor in fully inserting the endoscope and examining your colon. This part takes about 45 minutes and is completely painless. The medical team sends the scope from one end of your colon to the other, looking for any signs of growths or polyps, which could develop into cancer. Polyps can be removed during this procedure to prevent the development of colon cancer.
When you wake up, you’ll be taken to a private room for recovery. Once you’re awake, you’ll be given something to drink and a nurse will make sure you’re recovering as expected.
The medical staff will discuss with you the results of your procedure and answer any questions you may have.
Your driver will pull to the front door, and you’ll be escorted there in a wheelchair. You can eat as soon as you leave. After fasting for the procedure, you’ll likely be hungry.
If you’ve been diagnosed with colorectal cancer, physicians at the Atrium Health Navicent Peyton Anderson Cancer Center are available to provide multidisciplinary, integrated and comprehensive care. Atrium Health Navicent holds accreditation from the National Accreditation Program for Rectal Cancer (NAPRC), a quality program of the American College of Surgeons, and provides patients with peace of mind that they are receiving the best possible care. The cancer center is the first in Georgia to receive NAPRC accreditation.
For more information about screenings for colon cancer, or to find a doctor, visit NavicentHealth.org.