EL DORADO, Ark. (KTVE/KARD)–The recent death of actress Kirstie Alley is a reminder to all of those over the age of 45 to be regularly screened for colorectal cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of death from cancer estimating 52,580 lives will be lost due to colorectal cancer in 2023.

In 2023, the American Cancer Society altered its recommendation for the timing of a first-time colon cancer screening from age 50 to age 45, for those at average risk of cancer. The change was directly tied to the rising number of younger adults being diagnosed with colorectal cancers – including many with no family history of the disease.

“There is the potential for false perceptions regarding the changing data on colon cancer,” says Dr. Thomas Kennedy General Surgeon with MCSA. “While mortality rates from colon cancer have been declining over the past 30 years, the number of new diagnoses is actually increasing.

A colonoscopy is a procedure that is performed by using a long, thin, flexible tube, which is inserted through the rectum into the lower digestive tract, while the patient is sedated or asleep. The tube is equipped with a light and a tiny camera that transmits images of the patient’s intestinal lining to a computer screen located at the bedside. This enhanced view allows the doctor to see inflamed tissue and any abnormal growths.

“We are doing a better job of screening for and removing polyps before they become cancerous, while lifestyle and diet choices are driving up the risk and incidence of these cancers in general.”

If polyps (growths) are found during the exam, they are quickly and painlessly removed at that time, and later tested in a laboratory for signs of cancer. Polyps are common in adults and usually harmless. However, most colorectal cancer begins as a polyp, so removing polyps early is an effective prevention method. Your doctor can also take samples from abnormal-looking tissues – a biopsy – during the colonoscopy so that any suspicious areas can be examined for signs of disease and treated, if necessary.

The former mayor of El Dorado, Veronica Smith-Creer, is a colon cancer survivor. She expresses the importance of getting colonoscopies, especially if there is a family history of the disease.

“It was stage two colon cancer. As a survivor, it’s so important to make people aware, not only of the symptoms and treatment but to make sure people know where to go and who to talk to,” explained Creer.

The risk level for colon cancer varies according to age, gender and ethnic background, as well as your overall health and lifestyle.

Factors that affect your risk level include:

● Advancing age (over age 45)

● Male gender

● African American ethnic status

● A family or personal history of polyps(growths inside the rectum or colon), or colorectal cancer

● A high-fat diet

● Certain digestive diseases, diabetes, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis

Members of our Medical Center of South Arkansas are available to provide more information on the importance of regular screenings for colorectal cancer.

If you would like to schedule a colon screening or find out more information, contact MCSA at 870-863-2000.