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What Everyone Should Know About Colon and Rectal Cancer

May 16, 2019
If Dr. Nina Ferraris, a colon and rectal surgeon at GBMC, could share only one piece of advice with you, it would be this — get your screening colonoscopy. Dr. Ferraris talked with WMAR News’ Christian Schaffer about the importance of recommended colon and rectal cancer screening, the signs and symptoms that mean you may need a colonoscopy to check for cancer, and how the preparation for colonoscopy has improved in recent years.

“Colonoscopy is part of standard preventive care,” she explained. “A few years ago, the American Cancer Society changed its recommendation, saying people should begin to consider have a screening colonoscopy at 45 rather than 50. And if you have a family history of colon or rectal cancer, you should start screening 10 years before your relative was diagnosed with cancer. Early detection often means that you’ll have a better outcome and may not have to undergo chemotherapy or radiation. You may also need to undergo colonoscopy if you’re experiencing symptoms such as a change in bowel movements, bloating, abdominal pain, unexplained weight loss, or blood in your stool."

Dr. Ferraris also talked about at-home colon cancer screening tests, but noted that these tests can miss smaller polyps, and if the test results are irregular, you’ll still need to undergo colonoscopy. That’s one reason she and other colon and rectal cancer specialists recommend colonoscopy as the gold standard for screening.

“People often get anxious about having a colonoscopy, but the newer prep allows you to drink a smaller volume of liquid and mix it with a beverage you like, such as Gatorade. In addition, because patients are lightly sedated during the procedure, most people don’t even remember it.”
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