More than 95,000 people were diagnosed with colon cancer in 2016, according to American Cancer Society statistics. Some of them only learned that they had cancer following a colonoscopy, a routine test that can detect it in its earliest stages. Dr. Shahin Rahimian, your Martinsburg, WV gastroenterologist at Panhandle Gastroenterology, PLLC, shares information about colon cancer and explains why colonoscopies are so important.
Colon cancer symptoms aren't always obvious
Unlike some other forms of cancer, you may not notice anything unusual during the early stages of colon cancer. If it progresses, you may experience:
- Bowel Habit Changes: Colon cancer can affect your bowel movements. Constipation or diarrhea that lasts more than four weeks may be a sign of cancer.
- Incomplete Evacuation: If you have colon cancer, it may seem as if your bowel is never empty, even if you've just had a bowel movement.
- Blood in Your Stool: Blood in your stool may be a sign of hemorrhoids, but can also be an indication that you have colon cancer.
- Fatigue: It's not unusual to feel weak and tired if you have colon cancer.
- Weight Loss: Have you recently lost weight without trying? Unexplained weight loss is always a cause for concern and can accompany colon cancer.
Why should I have a colonoscopy in Martinsburg?
Since symptoms of colon cancer generally only occur during the latter stages of the disease, it's important to take advantage of a colonoscopy screening. An initial screening is recommended when you turn 50 because your risk of developing the cancer increase with age.
During the test, a thin, flexible scope that contains a light and miniature camera is passed through your anus, then into your large intestine and first part of your small intestine. The camera transmits images of the lining of your intestines to a digital screen, which allows your gastroenterologist to search for polyps or lesions. If any polyps are spotted, they're removed during the procedure and sent to a lab for a biopsy. Although most polyps are benign, some may be cancerous or pre-cancerous.
If you're experiencing any of the symptoms of colon cancer, or you've reached your 50th birthday, it's important to schedule a gastroenterology visit and colon cancer screening. Call Dr. Rahimian, your Martinsburg, WV gastroenterologist at Panhandle Gastroenterology, PLLC, at (304) 260-0160 to schedule an appointment.