WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Colorectal or colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women and the second leading cause in men.
Dr. Ramage of Hanover Gastroenterology said those deaths could significantly decrease if more people, especially over the age of 50, got colonoscopies.
"Colon cancer comes from polyps and with colonoscopies. We can remove pre-cancerous polyps before they become a problem," Ramage added.
The American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Control recommend starting colonoscopies at the age of 50. African Americans should start at the age of 45 because of an increased risk, and people with a family history may start even in their 30s.
Ramage said the procedure is a lot different these days.
"Colonoscopy, today, we use sedation with a drug that is like a switch, is what I describe to people. You're awake — asleep — then you wake up afterwards and you don't remember anything in between."
Ramage said there are many myths about the exam.
"You've heard the stories about the big jugs," he said with a smile. "Those days are long gone. You basically take four glasses of liquid of your choice the night before and the morning of the procedure mix in a little powder to those four glasses that have no taste and that's the prep."
The liquids clean out your bowels to give doctors a clear view of the colon. If polyps are found, they are sniped and removed during the procedure.
Polyps that are removed are tested for cancer. Finding them early saves lives.
"We know that if colon cancer is found early, it is over 90 percent curable," Ramage said with conviction.
Symptoms of colon cancer include:
• Blood in stool
• Change in bowel habits
• Cramping or abdominal pain
• Unintentional weight loss
• Weakness or fatigue
If you experience any of these symptoms, Ramage recommends you seek medical attention.
"Paying attention to your body is always important. If something doesn't seem right, see your doctor and have it investigated."