Saundra Sweeney survived colon cancer. She has no family history of the disease and had no obvious symptoms, so the diagnosis was quite a shock. “I had anemia at age 45 at an annual checkup. And again, at age 50, anemia came up again. They (doctors) wanted to put me on an iron pill. I asked, “What causes anemia?” Doctors told Sweeney it could be one of two things: fatigue or blood in her stool. For this mother of two teenagers, who also worked fulltime, fatigue was a normal part of life. She decided to have some tests done. After blood was found in her stool, Sweeney had a colonoscopy and later a CT scan. The results revealed she had stage four colon cancer. From 2010 until 2012, she underwent treatment at University of Colorado Hospital. Today, she is stable, but goes back for more testing later this month. Sweeney says her story highlights just how important it is to get screened. “Colon cancer is the most preventable, treatable and curable disease, if people would just get their screening. Really, having a colonoscopy is not that big of a deal, ” said Sweeney. March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness month to focus on a cancer that is the number two cancer killer in the United States for cancers that affect both men and women.
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Early detection crucial in colorectal cancer, doctors say
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States for both men and women combined. This year, approximately 140,000 new cases of colorectal cancer will be diagnosed and 56,000 people will die from the disease. Big changes in treatment have taken place the last 10 years, Dandamudi explained. A multidisciplinary approach can utilize options including gastroenterology, radiology and surgery, Dandamudi added A tumor board meets weekly to discuss cases, Frattini noted. Blood in the stool or abdominal pain usually are sure clues to pursue treatment. Even those patients who have advanced to the incurable stage four can now expect to live longer, thanks to advancements, Dandamudi said. Surgery techniques for colorectal cancer have changed to include laparoscopic or robotic methods, Frattini noted. Hospitals stays have shortened to about two to three days, he said, instead of five to seven days in the past. Incisions are about half as long in surgeries now. Its not just a hemorrhoid, Frattini said about some patients who indulged in some wishful thinking about early signs of colon cancer. Delays could result in multiple treatments instead of a single option, Dandamudi emphasized about patients who ignore symptoms. While most should seek diagnosis by age 50, those with a family history of colon cancer should consult doctors by age 40, Dandamudi recommended. While the prevalence of colorectal cancer has decreased for patients ages 50 and older, the disease is increasing among the 20-49 age group, Frattini noted.
Colon cancer: A preventable illness
Yamamoto says. Polyps are removed quick and painlessly like this during the colonoscopy. Dr. Yamamoto has been practicing for 33 years and says he’s watched as technology has completely changed the procedure, making it safer and less invasive. “It’s much more superior than what we did thirty years ago,” Dr. Yamamoto says. When Dr. Yamamoto started a colonoscopy procedures back in the late 1978 he says it would take about two and half hours to complete the procedure. Pavia’s colonoscopy took 20 minutes. “It’s better to know what’s going on,” Pavia says. Dr.