ANOKA, Minn. — Few words can make people as nervous as 'colonoscopy'.
"It's the fear of the unknown because you don't know what you are going to find until we do the procedure," says Gastroenterologist Dr. Gregory Weber.
But it's one of those things you can't ignore, and being proactive could save your life.
"Most of the time we don't have any signs or symptoms of colon cancer until we do a screening test," Dr. Weber said. "That's why screening is so important."
That brings us back to the colonoscopy. There are lots of methods to screen for colon cancer but the best, according to Dr. Weber, is a colonoscopy.
"That is where we take a camera and look through the entire length of the colon, looking for polyps or even looking for cancer," he said. "That's what's really cool about colonoscopy - it does both. It detects and prevents colon cancer."
What are some things to look out for that should prompt a visit to the doctors office?
"New abdominal pain, some bleeding in or around the stool, some changes to your typical bowel habits," Dr. Weber said.
It's not just men who should be getting screened.
"If you have a colon you're at risk for having colon cancer," Dr. Weber said.
Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. 1 in 22 men and 1 in 24 women will be diagnosed with it.
Screening should start at 50. If you're African American it should start at 45, and if there is family history of the disease it should start at 40.
According to the Dr. Weber, it's not as scary as many think.
"Most people say the actual colonoscopy is a breeze," he said. "We give you medicine to make you sleepy for the test and most of the time people don't remember what goes on during the procedure because they are sleeping."
Dr. Weber says there are some lifestyle factors that may contribute to colorectal cancer. Those include being obese, smoking, eating large amounts of red or processed meat and drinking large amounts of alcohol.
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