Medically Reviewed by Virginia L. Clyburn-Ipock, MD
Don’t avoid seeing your personal physician or having a colonoscopy if you are over age 50, says McLeod Radiation Oncologist Dr. Virginia Clyburn-Ipock.
Here are key points from Dr. Clyburn-Ipock’s comments:
One of the most important things that I tell people who have not been diagnosed with cancer is if you have certain symptoms go to your primary care physician and get checked out.
Often, patients that we treat for cancer have actually had symptoms for many months or even years but neglected to go see a physician about it. Either, they weren’t that concerned with it, felt they didn’t have time to get it assessed or were “scared of doctors.” But, it’s very important that if a patient has certain symptoms that seem unusual, they should be assessed by their primary care physician.
One example of this is colon cancer. Many times patients will have symptoms of colon cancer long before a diagnosis is confirmed. These symptoms include bleeding from the rectum, blood in the stool or a change in stool caliber — meaning when they have a bowel movement they notice over time stool size decreases. Any of these symptoms are certainly concerning and warrant the patient going to their primary care physician. Often though, rectal bleeding is simply from a hemorrhoid or fissure, but nevertheless, evaluation by a physician is in order.
Any patient age 50 or older also needs to undergo a screening colonoscopy. This is so important, because colon cancer is curable if we catch it early enough. Depending on what they find during a colonoscopy, your physician may put you on a routine screening schedule and you may not need screening again for ten years. If they see something such as an abnormal polyp, they may have you come back in three to five years for short interval follow up.
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