Local Physician Leads Fight Against Colon Cancer
March 12, 2015
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer each year. It is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. One local doctor is trying to reduce those numbers.
Arkansas City, KS – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer each year. It is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. One local doctor is trying to reduce those numbers.
Dr. Tyson Blatchford, general surgeon for South Central Kansas Medical Center, has waived his physician fee for any screening colonoscopies he performs during the month of March. In 2000, March was officially dedicated as National Colon Cancer Awareness Month. Groups like the Colon Cancer Alliance have helped the month to grow to be a rallying point for the colon cancer community. Patients, survivors, caregivers and advocates throughout the country join together to spread colon cancer awareness, hold fundraising events and educate others about the importance of screening.
“Hopefully this has brought awareness of colorectal cancer and the importance of screening to the general public. It’s a “win-win” because it brings up a topic that people really don’t like to discuss, nor do they want to undergo any type of procedure to screen for it. Quite honestly advanced colorectal cancer is preventable, you just have to talk to your doctor and get the appropriate screening,” Blatchford said.
The American Cancer Society promotes regular screening, increasing the likelihood colon cancer can be found early, when treatment is most effective. In many cases, screening can prevent colon cancer by finding and removing polyps before they become cancer. And if cancer is present, earlier detection means a chance at a longer life.
“A lot of times in surgery we encounter patients that have advanced disease. If you look at other types of cancer, most of the time when you start having symptoms and issues it’s too late. Versus colorectal cancer there is a very good screening tool, colonoscopy, where it can be detected prior to turning into cancer or caught in its earliest stages and be curative,” Dr. Blatchford said.
Although there are multiple testing options, colonoscopy is considered the “gold standard” by most physicians for colorectal cancer screening. During the procedure, the doctor uses a long, thin, flexible, lighted tube to check for polyps or cancer inside the rectum and the colon. During the test, the doctor can find and remove most polyps and some cancers. Colonoscopy also is used as a follow-up test if anything unusual is found during one of the other screening tests.
“I think the biggest barrier is that people fear the test. But the fact of the matter is that the procedure is minimally invasive and can be lifesaving. Certainly a colonoscopy has its potential risks or complications. But that being said, those risks are minute compared to ignoring a cancer over a long period of time,” Dr. Blatchford said.
The CDC recommends that individuals with no family history of colorectal cancer begin screenings at age 50. The frequency of follow up screenings is determined by the type of screening tool used and the findings from the initial screening. The recommendation for normal colonoscopy screenings is every ten years.
“Of course if in that time interval you have symptoms, such as abdominal pain or bleeding, you may want to be reevaluated sooner than (every ten years),” Dr. Blatchford said. “If you have a strong family history of colorectal cancer, a first-degree relative or someone who was diagnosed at a younger age, you want to start ten years prior to the age of when that person was diagnosed with colorectal cancer.”
Dr. Blatchford believes people should view colonoscopy screenings similarly to their annual health physicals, and is passionate about spreading the word in order to save lives.
“It’s a preventable disease and we need to get everybody out there aware of that, and over the barrier of fear. There is really no excuse why there should be advanced colorectal cancer in most people,” Dr. Blatchford said. “A colonoscopy is just one of those things that you should do because there is nothing more catastrophic than ignoring something that is completely preventable. That’s why I feel so strong about it.”