Health Care

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

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Colon cancer screening isn't just for people who might have a concern. It’s just as important for people who are healthy, even if you don’t have any symptoms.

Doctors recommend adults should get their first colonoscopy near their 45th birthday. Some people at higher risk — including those with some digestive disorders or a family history of colon cancer — should be tested even earlier. According to the American Cancer Society, Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among people in the United States, so it’s important to keep up with regular colonoscopies.  

"The power of a colonoscopy is twofold," says Dr. Jaime Sanchez, a board-certified colon and rectal surgeon at AdventHealth Carrollwood. "It can spot cancer early and it can even prevent cancer entirely. This is because polyps can turn into colon cancer slowly, usually over years. During a colonoscopy, which involves the use of a narrow flexible tube to inspect the inner lining of the colon, we can remove these polyps."

By being preventive, you can find issues and treat them right away, which reduces your risk of ever developing cancer.

There are other tools to find colon cancer, but there are drawbacks that can make them less effective than colonoscopies. Some look at only part of the colon, others miss small tumors, while still others can detect cancer but cannot prevent it.

Some people are afraid of getting a colonoscopy, but the experience has improved greatly in recent years. The preparation typically involves a laxative the day before the procedure with a sports beverage to wash it down and keep the body's electrolytes in balance.

The procedure itself happens under sedation; most patients are sleeping soundly while it's happening.

"Although routine screening is the best way to prevent colorectal cancer or spot it early, being vigilant for its signs is also very important," says Dr. Sanchez.

Make sure to talk to a doctor if you have any narrowing in the width of stool, blood in stool, weight loss or abdominal pain. Again, reporting these symptoms early could mean the difference between spotting cancer when effective treatments exist, or waiting until it's too late.

Taking steps to protect yourself against colorectal cancer not only protects your body — it gives you peace of mind. Learn more about our colorectal care services at

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