Colon Cancer Awareness: Why Screening Saves Lives

By: Crouse News

Colorectal cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer death in the U.S. But, the cancer can be treated successfully—if it’s caught in its early stages. That’s why colorectal cancer screening is so important.

While previous guidelines recommended screening begin at age 50 for someone of average risk, that age has now been lowered to 45. Why was the change made? According to David Nesbitt, MD, colorectal surgeon with Crouse Health, there’s not a clear-cut answer. However, researchers are uncovering more about the cancer overall.

“We’re learning more about the genetics of colon cancer. There are several genes that may play a role. We think a lot of it is also diet-related. We know that too much red meat and not enough fiber can lead to polyp formation,” he states.

Recent research has also pointed to high fructose corn syrup, which is found in many processed foods.

Facts About Colonoscopy
Colonoscopy is considered the “gold standard” of colorectal cancer screening. This procedure allows for a direct visualization of the inner lining of the large intestine. Surgeons are looking for polyps, which can potentially turn to cancer over time.

In the vast majority of cases, the polyps are able to be removed right there and then—preventing the need for an additional procedure. Even if a polyp is on the large side or somewhat challenging, it can still be removed using advanced colonoscopy techniques.

Individuals are sedated during the 20-30 minute procedure. While people tend to dread the prep required, Dr. Nesbitt assures that process has improved significantly over the years.

“Honestly, I think the hardest thing about a colonoscopy is just scheduling a day off. We all have busy schedules, but once you have the date scheduled, it’s really pretty smooth.”

Robotic Surgery: Benefiting Patients & Providers
Should further surgery be required, Dr. Nesbitt and his colleagues employ robotic surgery—which provides benefits for both the patient and surgeon. For example, this approach shortens hospital stay, reduces recovery length, and diminishes pain medication use.

On the surgical side, robotic surgery is highly precise. “We’re getting more lymph node information. We’re getting better margins. We can dissect lower into the pelvis and tight spaces like the pelvis,” Dr. Nesbitt explains. “We have an amazing team, from pre-op preparation to the actual operating room. I have a whole team that I’m really lucky to work with.”

Multidisciplinary Approach to Care
While Dr. Nesbitt performs strictly colon and rectal surgery, he works very closely with other departments such as gastroenterology and oncology. A multidisciplinary tumor board meets once a month, enlisting the expertise of a radiologist and pathologist.

“We can review MRIs and CAT scans. We discuss anything from the straightforward colon cancer cases to some of the more complex cases we need to talk about with each other in order to figure out the next best step for the patients. Even though we’re in separate groups, the doctors work very closely with each other.”

**To listen to an in-depth conversation on this topic with Dr. David Nesbitt, Colorectal Surgeon with Crouse Health, please click here

Crouse News is reported by members of our Communications Team.

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