Valdosta Daily Times

March 8, 2013

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month

Kay Harris
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — While cancers such as breast and lung receive a lot of attention, colon cancer is not discussed as openly, despite it being the third leading cause of cancer.

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month and the physicians and staff of Valdosta Gastroenterology Associates and Endoscopy Center are finding creative ways to spread the message.

Nurse Manager Karen Mosley said the practice held an awareness event on Feb. 28 to the physicians and employees of all eight practices in their building on Connell Drive.

“We fed them a ‘blue’ breakfast, because blue is the designated color for colon cancer,” said Mosley, “and we fed them a ‘blue’ lunch, where the food and the drinks were all colored blue. We had someone in a costume called ‘Pablo Polyp,’ and they went around all day to the offices and patients passing out literature, buttons and brochures.”

Mosley said the physicians in the practice, Dr. Eric Ward and Dr. Allen Woods, were looking for ways to spread the word and to tie events into the national awareness month.

Ward said there is no special diet that will prevent colon cancer as “genetics are the biggest risk factor.”

Ward said some health issues can increase the risk of developing the cancer, including obesity, smoking and diabetes, but regardless of a person’s health, it is essential that they receive regular colon screenings once they turn 50.

“The recommendation is for men and women who turn 50 to receive a colonoscopy, and if there are no issues, every 10 years after,” Ward said. “If there is a genetic history in their family, their screening needs to start earlier after consulting with their doctor.”

Ward said colonoscopies find pre-cancerous polyps, which 25 percent of men and 15 percent of women will develop. “There is no way to predict what polyps will become cancer, so all need to be removed if they are found anywhere in the colon.”

The word “colonoscopy” invokes a fearful or nervous response, but Ward said it isn’t as bad as many believe as the patient sleeps through it and the risk of complications is rare.

“Unfortunately, one third of those who should get screened don’t. We wanted to raise awareness this month and emphasize the need for screening. If the cancer is caught early, we can cure it surgically,” he said. “Once someone starts seeing symptoms, including rectal bleeding, dramatic weight loss, etc., it’s usually too late.”

Ward said Medicare and most insurance companies typically cover colonoscopies.

To continue their awareness campaign, Valdosta Gastroenterology Associates will host a community cookout on Friday, March 29, with lunch provided. The public is welcome to attend anytime between 12 and 3 p.m., and both Drs. Ward and Woods will give away a free colonoscopy that attendees can register to win.