March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month

Mar 01, 2014

Rockport — Pen Bay Medical Center has an active Endoscopy Unit with one gastroenterologist and two surgeons who perform colonoscopies. Colonoscopy is the procedure used to screen for colorectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States after lung cancer. Data show that the most effective way to prevent colon cancer is to get regular screenings beginning at age 50. Many people avoid this lifesaving test because of false information and fear. During colon cancer awareness month, let’s answer some of the most frequently asked questions about screening for colon cancer.

What is colon cancer?

Colon cancer usually arises from existing polyps in the colon. The progression from a polyp to a cancer usually takes 5 to 10 years.

Am I at risk for colon cancer?

You are at risk for colon cancer: if you are over the age of 50, have a family history of colon cancer or have precancerous polyps. In the early stages, colon cancer may not cause any symptoms. So even if you feel well, testing is the only way to ensure that your colon is healthy.

How can I prevent colon cancer?

Colon cancer is one of the few cancers that can be prevented. If caught early, colon cancer is usually curable.

— Colonoscopy is the best test to find and remove precancerous growths called polyps. This will help prevent them from becoming cancers.

— If you are between 50 and 75 years old, you should have a colonoscopy

— If other members of your family have had colon cancer or precancerous polyps, you may need earlier screening

What is colonoscopy?

During a colonoscopy, a thin, flexible tube is inserted into your colon, to search for cancers and precancerous polyps. If any are found, they can often be removed at the same time. Most patients receive mild sedation which makes the examination more comfortable.

Can I afford this test?

In Maine, most insurance plans cover the cost of screening colonoscopy. For people without insurance, there are programs in Maine to help pay for part or all of the costs of the procedure. At Pen Bay Medical Center, we want to make sure that everyone who needs colonoscopy is able to have it.

Where can I get this test?

At Pen Bay Medical Center, a team of two surgeons and a gastroenterologist at the Pen Bay Endoscopy Unit performs more than 1,600 colonoscopies a year. Early detection could save your life.

The Pen Bay Medical Center Endscopy Unit has two surgeons, a gastroenterologist and a pulmonologist, assisted by registered nurses and technicians. To find out how to get this important test, talk to your primary care doctor, call Pen Bay Surgery at 593-5722 or Dr. Neil Smith’s office at 593-6599.

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