Michael F. Demyen, MD, is a gastroenterologist with Park Medical Group and a member of the Englewood Health Physician Network. Englewood Health offers safe and convenient access to colonoscopy at locations throughout northern New Jersey.
Did you know that colorectal cancer is preventable and highly treatable in its early stages? Gastroenterologist Michael Demyen, MD, explains why having a colonoscopy is essential to your health—and why the procedure is easier to undergo now than it was in the past.
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States and is on the rise in younger people. Most patients who develop colorectal cancer have no family history of the disease. Black Americans are at higher risk of developing colorectal cancer, but it affects people of all races and ethnicities.
Why is screening for colorectal cancer important?
Dr. Demyen: Early colorectal cancer usually has no symptoms, and the disease is not detected in routine lab tests or during physical exams. Screening for colorectal cancer allows doctors to find cancers when they are in the early stages and, therefore, more treatable.
Who should be screened?
Dr. Demyen: The American Cancer Society recommends that all men and women at average risk for colorectal cancer begin screening at age 45 and continue every 10 years until age 75. A family history of colorectal cancer and certain medical conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), increase a person’s risk. Those at high risk of developing colorectal cancer should talk with their doctor about beginning colonoscopy screening prior to age 45 and about undergoing more frequent testing.
Can having a colonoscopy help prevent colon cancer?
Dr. Demyen: A colonoscopy is both a screening test and a prevention tool. During a colonoscopy, gastroenterologists may find cancers in early stages, as well as find and remove precancerous polyps.
What if I’ve had an unpleasant experience with the colonoscopy procedure in the past?
Dr. Demyen: Today’s methods of colonoscopy preparation are easier and more tolerable than those of the past, and they cause less bloating and gas.
How does a colonoscopy work?
Dr. Demyen: Following laxative preparation, a long, flexible tube is inserted into the rectum and a tiny video camera at the end of the tube is used to visualize the entire colon.
Is there an alternative if I can’t tolerate a colonoscopy?
Dr. Demyen: A colonoscopy is the most sensitive screening test, and allows for the removal of abnormal tissue during the procedure. Noninvasive stool tests, such as FIT (fecal immunohistochemical test) and FIT-DNA testing, can be performed at home and sent to a lab to be analyzed. Another option is a virtual colonoscopy, which uses a CT scan to capture images of the colon. These tests are typically performed every year or at three-year intervals. Ask your doctor if one of these tests is right for you.
Can I wait until after the pandemic for colon cancer screening?
Dr. Demyen: Patients should not delay their cancer screening tests. In 2020 we saw too many patients experience delays in detecting treatable disease, especially in the most vulnerable communities, due to the pandemic. That delay has unfortunately led to deaths that could have been prevented. Englewood Health has put measures in place to ensure screening and procedures can be performed safely and efficiently.
Posted March 24, 2021