What You Need to Know About Colon Cancer

When it comes to your health, Charise Sherman has one message: “Know your family history.”

The Bethel, Ohio resident is speaking up because her own family has a history of cancer. Her grandmother got diagnosed with colon cancer at age 72.

Colonoscopies: How Do They Work?

Charise asked her doctor about a colonoscopy, which is a test that involves inserting a tiny tube with a camera on the end into the colon. “The whole point is to get all the way to the other end of the colon and examine it carefully, and if we see any abnormal lesions, then we remove them,” Nav Grandhi MD, of the TriHealth Digestive Institute, tells Local 12's Liz Bonis.  

After Charise’s grandmother was diagnosed, Charise asked her mom to get a colonoscopy. During the exam, her mom’s doctor found a precancerous polyp, or a growth on the lining of her colon that could have developed into cancer. Not all polyps are cancerous, however.

Then, Charise got a colonoscopy herself – before it was even recommended. “I did have a polyp, but it was not the precancerous kind,” she points out.

If a small polyp is found, in some cases, your doctor might remove it during your colonoscopy. This is usually done by passing a wire loop through the colonoscopy to cut the polyp from the wall of the colon with an electric current. From there, the polyp is sent to a lab to be checked under a microscope to see if it has any areas that have changed to cancer.

Colon Cancer: Younger People Can Be Diagnosed, Too

According to the American Cancer Society, about nine in 10 people diagnosed with colorectal cancer are at least 50 years old; but, Charise notes that younger women can still be diagnosed with this type of cancer. “When you are younger, you don’t think about things like that, until it happens to you,” she adds.

Depending on other risk factors, most people should undergo a colonoscopy every 10 years, starting at age 50.

Furthermore, colonoscopies are critical for early detection. “The cancer has a very high cure rate, but only if lesions are detected early,” Dr. Grandhi says.

Tags: Cancer

Last Updated: October 3, 2016