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Colon Cancer Screening Saves Lives


Submitted by Mississippi Valley Surgery Center

Cory Jorgensen is the type of man who has a lot in common with other people. Like many of us, he enjoys the outdoors and spending quality time with his family.

He also has something else in common with hundreds of thousands of people across our country — colorectal cancer. 

Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer diagnosed each year for all adults. The good news is it can be very treatable. Many people, like Cory, beat colorectal cancer through early screening.

March is National Colon Cancer Awareness Month, making this edition of Healthy Cells Magazine perfect for spreading the word about the importance of proactively managing your gastrointestinal health.

The importance of early detection

It was Cory’s family history that prompted him to seek medical advice and pursue early screenings.

“My father developed colon tumors that spread everywhere. I saw what he went through because he wasn’t diagnosed very early in his disease,” said Cory. “After encouragement from my wife, I went to my primary care doctor. He did a blood test and looked at my dad’s paperwork. Right away, he referred me to Dr. Lauri Harsh at Eastern Iowa Gastroenterology.”

Dr. Harsh has been practicing in Eastern Iowa since 2003 and commonly performs colorectal cancer screenings at the Mississippi Valley Endoscopy Center, 5041 Utica Ridge Road, Suite 200. The American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy recently recognized the Mississippi Valley Endoscopy Center for excellence in patient safety and care.

Colorectal cancer screenings are performed on an outpatient basis and typically only require mild sedation.

Cory’s decision to get a screening based on his father’s experience was the right one. The colorectal screening Dr. Harsh performed revealed that he had developed a cancerous growth in his colon. Thankfully, the cancer wasn’t advanced.

“Early detection literally saves lives,” said Dr. Harsh. “By doing a regular screening, your doctor will be able to remove polyps before they have a chance to turn into cancer. It can also result in finding cancerous polyps early, when they are still highly curable.”

Ways to screen for colorectal cancer

There are several tests to screen for colorectal cancer in people with an average risk. Dr. Harsh works with patients to determine what option is best for them. Tests can be divided into two broad groups:

  • Tests that can find both colorectal polyps and cancer: These tests, such as flexible sigmoidoscopies and colonoscopies, look at the structure of the colon itself to find any abnormal areas.
  • Tests that can screen for cancer: These involve testing the stool (feces) for signs that blood or cancer may be present. These tests are less invasive and easier to have done, but they are less likely to detect polyps. If any abnormalities are found, a colonoscopy would then be performed.

“The colonoscopy remains the gold standard when it comes to early screening of colon cancer,” said Dr. Harsh. “During the procedure, you’re not only able to detect polyps, but also remove them before they become cancerous or when the growths are in an early stage.”

Unfortunately, many people avoid the procedure out of fear of pain or discomfort. For Cory, the colonoscopy Dr. Harsh performed to screen for polyps and colorectal cancer was easy.

“Dr. Harsh and her team told me what to expect in layman’s terms,” he said. “The nurses and team at the Mississippi Valley Endoscopy Center were really nice and clearly professionals at their job. I was home safely and comfortably a couple hours after the procedure.”

Look for the risk factors

While Cory was tested because of his family history, there are additional risk factors people should be aware of:

  • A personal history of inflammatory bowel disease, specifically ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s Disease
  • Having previously had colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer
  • A past history of other types of cancer
  • Low-fiber diet
  • Physical inactivity
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Age over 50

“If you meet any of these risk factors, reach out to your health care provider about your screening options. You don’t need a referral to get started,” said Dr. Harsh. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get involved with your treatment.”

To learn more about Dr. Harsh and Eastern Iowa Gastroenterology, call 563-355-7602, or visit http://easterniowagastro.com.
To learn more about the Mississippi Valley Endoscopy Center, go to www.mvhealth.net and visit Facebook at facebook.com/MississippiValleySurgeryCenter.