You’ve heard the statistics: colon cancer is one of the most common cancers in the United States, and it is most treatable when caught early.
If you’re 50 or over, or have a bowel disorder, you’ve probably been told by your doctor that you need a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy is a diagnostic medical procedure in which you are heavily sedated (although still conscious, usually) and a small thin tube is inserted into your rectum that has a camera on the end. Your doctor uses this to see if you have any abnormal polyps, bleeding, or masses that could indicate colon cancer. A colonoscopy has always been, and still is, the gold standard of colon cancer detection.
The problem is, many people will not get this procedure done because they are embarrassed, or because they don’t want to go through a bowel prep. A bowel prep is when you take strong laxatives that make you have bowel movements until there is nothing left in your bowels. This is so the physician can see the interior walls and check for abnormalities. Many people don’t mind the colon prep, but for some, the thought of going to the bathroom so much and not being able to eat anything for eight to twelve hours is off-putting. So they decide to not have the colonoscopy. They reason that they have no symptoms. The problem with that thinking is that people don’t have symptoms of colon cancer until it is very advanced. Dr. David Patton says there is an alternative: a test called cologuard.
This is really for people that it’s hard to convince to get a colonoscopy. They need some type of screening and with this it seems very personal that they can stay in their own home they don’t have to undergo a procedure that is scary to them.”
The results of the cologuard test come back in one to two weeks. The test works by having the patient collect and send a stool sample, and then a lab performs a DNA analysis, looking for types of abnormal cells or blood, which can indicate cancer.
For Dr. Patton of Charleston, West Virginia, colon cancer is personal. Not only did he lose several family members to colon cancer, but he himself was also diagnosed with it a year ago. He now says he is cancer free. He got lucky, he says, because it was found through routine testing — he had no symptoms.
I had had one four years previous, which was negative, but in that amount of time I had gone from no colon cancer to a stage three. I tried to just sit back and let the doctors take over and not try to manage myself.”