Colonoscopies still the best defense against colon cancer

By Michaela Gibson Morris

Daily Journal

Life is full of little indignities, but a colonoscopy is one that might save your life.

Colon cancer is one of the few tumors that give doctors something to see before it becomes cancer – a little bump extending into the colon.

“It's truly preventable,” said Carah Edgeworth, nurse practitioner with Digestive Health Specialists. During a colonoscopy, gastroentrologists can snip the polyps, and it's all done.

More people are getting colonoscopies, especially now that Medicare and some private insurers are paying for them, said Tupelo gastroentrologist Dr. Barney Guyton.

“We've still got a long way to go,” he said.

There's no reason to fear a colonoscopy, Guyton said. Patients are sedated, so there's no pain as the physician uses a slender scope to check the entire colon or large intestine. The prep to clear the colon isn't the most pleasant experience, but it is rare for patients to have problems with weakness. It's much easier to deal with than the treatment for colon cancer.

“The success rate really depends on preventing it,” Guyton said.

Screening exams like the colonoscopy are the best defense.

“We know for bowel health a high-fiber diet and exercise” are important, Guyton said. But against the backdrop of the typical American lifestyle, they aren't sufficient shields against the risk of colon cancer.

“If we all started at an early age, we might see a shift away from that,” said the physician, adding that in other countries where low-fat, high-fiber diets are the norm, people typically have lower rates of colon cancer.

n Colon cancer survivors share their journeys, 1C

n Dr. Guyton reviews screening guidelines 3C